Thai social media users were up in arms on Wednesday night and Thursday morning over reports that hospitals had run out of surgical masks.
One of the top leading hashtags overnight was #โรงพยาบาลขาดหน้ากากหนักมาก or ‘hospitals are seriously lacking masks.’
The social media furor appeared to be traced to a Khaosod Online post which claimed that Vajira Hospital was lacking surgical masks for residence and a social media post from a doctor purportedly working at Ramtibodhi Hospital who said he had to use cloth masks during surgery.
However, calls made by Thai Enquirer to Vajira hospital revealed that the hospital were rationing mask in anticipation of future shortages.
“We’re actually fine right now but the administrators have asked us to be mindful about the number of masks we use in case there is a future shortage,” said one hospital administrator who asked not to be named.
While calls to Ramatibodhi hospital were unanswered.
Calls by Thai Enquirer to public and private hospitals in Bangkok were met with similar messages. Bumrungrad, Smitivej, Bhumibol and Siriraj Hospitals all reported adequate stocks of surgical masks but all said they would closely monitor the situation.
Poor supply chain management
Thammasat University Hospital released a statement on Tuesday saying that while mask supplies were adequate, poor supply chain management means that the hospital was not certain when new masks would be made available.
Calls by Thai Enquirer to provincial hospitals including Khon Kaen General Hospital, Songkhla General Hospital, Ubol Ratchathani General Hospital and Chiang Mai University Hospital also revealed that while supplies were adequate for medical practitioners, there were not enough masks for the hospitals to give to their patients.
Songkhla hospital administrators told Thai Enquirer that they were also unsure when they would get new masks and that they were rationing their stockpile.
There have been shortages in masks due to public stockpiling and hysteria over the coronavirus outbreak.
The government has allocated funding from an emergency budget to boost the production of masks and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that hospitals will be given a quota.
The use of masks by the general public as a precaution against the coronavirus also seems misplaced, as the World Health Organization guidelines states:
- If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
The Thai public has, however, continued to criticize the coalition government for its failure to ensure mask supplies are available for public consumption.
For more about the significance of the mask in Asian culture, read here.