The government of Thailand says that the country can deal with immediate medical needs, but given the time it could take for the flood waters to recede there is doubt about whether the health system can withstand this kind of stress over the long term. IRIN reports:
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“Hospitals are panicking now, though they are not necessarily running out of supplies,” Pongpan Wongmanee, deputy secretary-general of the government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told IRIN, adding that most hospital stocks could last for at least a month.
Official predictions for how long it will take to drain waterlogged areas vary from 10 days to weeks.
Though flooding has disrupted the production of 393 registered medicines in more than 10 factories in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, there is no report of drug shortages yet, according to the Health Ministry on 31 October.
But some hospital officials are concerned their supplies will dwindle quickly as operations at these pharmaceutical plants are suspended, and demand for scarce medicines is expected to increase.
“At this point, the biggest limitation is medication. There are lots of volunteers and nurses, but very little medication,” said Pranya Sakiyalak, assistant dean of public relations at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. The hospital is sending a mobile medical team daily to one of the most hard-hit provinces 70km north of the capital, Ayutthaya.
Most urgently needed are aspirin, antibiotics and saline solution as patients in flood-affected areas report common minor illness and injuries, he added.
Delivery of medicines is difficult as some main roads are inaccessible, forcing operators to use indirect routes for transportation, said Pongpan from the FDA.