Prioritizing critical-care resources in response to COVID-19: lessons from the development of Thailand’s Triage protocol
As COVID-19 ravages the world, many countries are faced with the grim reality of not having enough critical-care resources to go around. Knowing what could be in store, the Thai Ministry of Public Health called for the creation of an explicit protocol to determine how these resources are to be rationed in the situation of demand exceeding supply. This paper shares the experience of developing triage criteria and a mechanism for prioritizing intensive care unit resources in a middle-income country with the potential to be applied to other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) faced with a similar (if not more of a) challenge when responding to the global pandemic. To the best of our knowledge, this locally developed guideline would be among the first of its kind from an LMIC setting. In summary, the experience from the Thai protocol development highlights three important lessons. First, stakeholder consultation and public engagement are crucial steps to ensure the protocol reflects the priorities of society and to maintain public trust in the health system. Second, all bodies and actions proposed in the protocol must not conflict with existing laws to ensure smooth implementation and adherence by professionals. Last, all components of the protocol must be compatible with the local context including medical culture, physician–patient relationship, and religious and societal norms.