Hotline Struggles To Cope As COVID-19 Cases Spike

Dr Jadet Thammathat-aree
Dr Jadet Thammathat-aree

The National Health Security Office (NHSO) has pledged to improve waiting times on its 1330 hotline, citing increasing demand.

Dr Jadet Thammathat-aree, secretary-general of the NHSO, said the hotline has been bombarded with calls inquiring about beds and medical care since COVID-19 caseloads surged in recent weeks due to the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant.

The hotline has been receiving between 40,000 and 70,000 calls a day, and with no corresponding increase in staff numbers to meet the demand many people have been unable to get through, he said.

“Even though the NHSO has asked people to work as volunteers replying to questions, there are still more incoming calls than they can handle,” Dr Thammathat-aree said.

He asked people to add the @nhso ID on the Line app as an alternative means of communicating with the agency.

Dr Thammathat-aree said many non-urgent calls were being made to the hotline every day and implored people not to redial with the same questions.

He said that about 50% of the calls came from people who had tested positive and registered for home isolation. They had called to inquire about the progress of their registrations after several days of waiting for a response from the hospitals they registered with.

Such calls have prevented new and unregistered COVID-19 sufferers who are using the hotline from getting through, Dr Thammathat-aree said.

He urged those who have already registered for medical care to avoid making unnecessary calls as that would go a long way to easing the burden and help unregistered sufferers get quicker access to medical care, he said.

Dr Thammathat-aree added that as the number of patients continues to outnumber hospital beds in several areas, newly registered patients were being forced to wait, which led the Public Health Ministry to introduce the outpatient scheme for COVID-19 patients, which took effect on 1st March, as an alternative for those who have not yet registered for home isolation.

Under the scheme, people who test positive but show only mild or no symptoms can receive favipiravir or fah talai jone on prescription, or other medications if doctors consider them necessary. They can also seek assistance at hospitals where their health insurance or public welfare is registered.