BACKGROUND: Shortage and maldistribution of the health workforce is a major problem in the Thai health system. The expansion of healthcare access to achieve universal health coverage placed additional demand on the health system especially on the health workers in the public sector who are the major providers of health services. At the same time, the reform in hospital payment methods resulted in a lower share of funding from the government budgetary system and higher share of revenue from health insurance. This allowed public hospitals more flexibility in hiring additional staff. Financial measures and incentives such as special allowances for non-private practice and additional payments for remote staff have been implemented to attract and retain them. To understand the distributional effect of such change in health workforce financing, this study evaluates the equity in health workforce financing for 838 hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health across all 75 provinces from 2008-2012.
METHODS: Data were collected from routine reports of public hospital financing from the Ministry of Public Health with specific identification on health workforce spending. The components and sources of health workforce financing were descriptively analysed based on the geographic location of the hospitals, their size and the core hospital functions. Inequalities in health workforce financing across provinces were assessed. We calculated the Gini coefficient and concentration index to explore horizontal and vertical inequity in the public sector health workforce financing in Thailand. Separate analyses were carried out for funding from government budget and funding from hospital revenue to understand the difference between the two financial sources.
RESULTS: Health workforce financing accounted for about half of all hospital non-capital expenses in 2012, about a 30 % increase from the level of spending in 2008. Almost one third of the workforce financing came from hospital revenue, an increase from only one fourth 5 years earlier. The study reveals a big difference in health workforce expenditure per capita across provinces. Health workforce spending from government budget was less equal than that from hospital revenues as shown by the higher Gini coefficient. The concentration indices show that the financing of hospital workforce was higher per capita in lower resource provinces.
CONCLUSION: Our analysis of equalities in health workforce spending shows an improving trend in equity across provinces from 2008-2012. Expansion of healthcare and health insurance coverage and financing reform towards a demand-side financing helped improve the distribution of funding for health workforce across the provinces. The findings from this study can be useful for other countries with ongoing reform towards universal health coverage.
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