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Asia Minute: Thailand’s Nursing Troubles

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

This is National Nurses’ Week. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are more than three and a half million nurses in the United States, while the Kaiser Family Foundation counts nearly 3,000 nurses working in Hawai‘i. It is challenging work—and in one Asian nation it’s also becoming more complicated. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


This week has been even busier than usual for nurses in Thailand.

The Public Health Ministry made its case to hire nearly 11,500 full time nurses over the next ten years.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s cabinet approved plans to hire only 450.

The Health Ministry says the country’s public hospitals face the biggest needs—they are already dealing with staff shortages.   

The cabinet does not want to add thousands of nurses to civil service positions...instead recommending that vacancies be filled with temporary hires and contract workers.

There’s no question that demand for nurses in Thailand has increased in a society that adopted a system of universal health care 16 years ago.

The country’s population is growing—and it is aging.

Plus, the government is pushing ahead with plans to make Thailand a destination for “medical tourism”---attracting patients from overseas for various hospital procedures and treatments.

But those are private hospitals—money-making ventures.

Right now, the nursing shortage is hitting public facilities—and some workers are hitting back. 

The Thai newspaper The Nation reports 5,000 contract nurses have threatened to go on strike if the government refuses to hire them as permanent staff.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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