The National Health Security Office (NHSO) has urged people to add its Line chat ID as an alternative communication channel to ease the burden on its hotline which has been swamped with calls inquiring about beds for COVID-19 suffers.
Dr Jadet Thammathat-aree, secretary-general of the NHSO, said the 1330 hotline phones have been ringing off the hook since COVID-19 caseloads surged in recent weeks due to the transmission of the Omicron variant.
From Monday to Thursday, the hotline had received on average 40,000 calls daily. There were not enough staff to handle the increase, with at least 30% of lines kept on hold or cut off.
“We’re understaffed at the hotline. I’d like to appeal to people to add our Line ID @nhso as an alternative means of communicating with us,” he said.
Dr Thammathat-aree added many non-urgent calls were made to the hotline every day and implored people not to redial with the same questions.
“Those who arrive at medical facilities and test positive for COVID-19 will be given treatment locations. People with few or no symptoms should go into isolation at home or in community centres. It’s not easy to find beds in hospitals or hospitels at this point,” he said.
The NHSO has asked people to work as volunteers replying to questions sent via its apps. About 100 volunteers have joined so far.
The NHSO is also hiring 150 more people to answer hotline calls. With the new recruits joining on 4th March, there will be 600 staff at the hotline.
Meanwhile, more than 101 billion baht of the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients scheme, which the NHSO manages, has been spent treating COVID-19 sufferers, mostly with mild symptoms, over the past two years, according to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
In 2020, a budget of 3.8 billion baht was disbursed for treating coronavirus disease sufferers. Last year, the cost shot up to 97.7 billion baht while this year’s total treatment cost has reached 32.4 billion baht.