Thailand Hospital Experience
Much has been said about the frustrated sex tourists, deceiving bar girls, struggling English teachers, and burned out expats. There’s a group tourists that have been overlooked – tourists for medical purposes.
Until not long ago, seeing doctors in Thailand was the least likely thing in my agenda. I have a very stressful work environment. Years went by, and I really got stressed out. I constantly felt anxious and short of breath. My HMO doctors ran some test on me. “We’ll call you,” they said. They never did. I called them again. “Oh, by the way, your cholesterol level is high.” Concerned with my health, I did some research to see if there’re a good medical facilities in Thailand, where I can have a good medical check up. It turned out there’re several large hospitals offering such services in Bangkok, Chiang Mei, Pattaya and Phuket.
I am not going to say which hospital I went, but you can easily find out the name of the hospital. It is a private hospital jointly owned by Thai, US, and other interests. It provides just about any medical services available, from laser vision correction to coronary bypass surgery. After studying their website, I made two appointments with them. One for a comprehensive physical check up, the other for a sleep test (I suspected I had sleep apnea).
Day One: As I walked into the hospital, I was very impressed. If you were in it and have never been to any part of Thailand, you’d probably think Thailand is one of the most developed countries in the world. The hospital is in a contemporary complex, with a shopping mall, restaurants, a food court, and an outpatient residence. There’s an international patients registration center. And if you are Japanese, congratulations, they have a whole section with its own registration center, just for Japanese! The majority of the patients I saw were Thais and many Middle Easterners. They have multilingual staff who speak English, Arabic, Chinese or Japanese.
I checked myself in the outpatient residence. I had a deluxe apartment with a large bedroom (the bed is too hard), a living room (with hardwood floor), a kitchen (no stove), a bathroom (no tub and the hot water was barely warm). Not really a comfortable place but it’s very clean and readily accessible to the hospital through the enclosed sky bridge.
Next I went to the international patient registration, filled out the paperwork and got a patient ID card. They also handed me a privacy statement (“sign name ka”).
To my surprise, they sent me to see the doctor right away, even though my appointment was still 3 hours away. I walked into the clinic. Oh my Buddha! I have never seen so many hotties in one place! The nurses here are the cream of the crop in the looks department in Bangkok! Some were extremely attractive. Some were so perfect that I wondered if they were real. Just sitting in the waiting room watching these eye candies is worth half the airfare! Let me assure you, once you see them, Nana girls will never be the same again.
Dr. CN, a laryngologist, greeted me with a bow and a wai. Try that in the States! He checked my ears, nose and throat and asked me to take a low-dose x-ray on my head. Ten minutes later he called me into his office again. He pulled up my x-ray image in his 24 inch LCD monitor and used the mouse to draw the measurements. He explained to me that all the measurements were good, except my airway was a little narrow, so it warranted having a sleep lab test.
I went to the sleep lab at 8:00 pm. Two attractive technicians hooked up all the electrodes on me. Up close my mind was wondering… These Thai girls all have impeccable hygiene. Never have bad breath. All smell like roses.
Just as I was going to sleep, the computer wouldn’t start. Tech support was called in and two hours later it was still not working. “I sorry,” the girl apologized. They pulled up another system and had to redo all the electrode connection on me. By that time my circadian rhythms kicked in and I couldn’t sleep. After they gave me a pill I dozed off for about three hours. So I was not very confident about the test results.
Day Two: I went to the 9th floor clinic for my comprehensive medical check up. They have those attractive “officers”, as they are called, to guide you through each doctor. I had my blood sample and chest x-ray taken, stool and urine analysis, full abdominal ultrasound, stress exercise EKG, body fat measurement, etc. The eye exam was a major disappointment, though. The doctor took a very cursory look and concluded “normal eyes”. I have eye problems. In this aspect, my doctors in the States did a better job.
The entire check up package took almost a day and I was exhausted. It was a good thing I stayed in the hospital. I took a nap in my apartment and resumed the exam in the afternoon.
Day Three: I went back to the 9th floor to pick up all my test results. They assembled all the reports together in an attractive package. Doctor AR went through all the results with me, item by item, with the illustrations from his 24 inch LCD monitor. He told me what needs to be taken care of and what does not need medical treatment at the present time.
Doctor CN called and told me I don’t have sleep apnea. However he did recommended to take a low radio frequency treatment. He assured me the pain would be mild. Well, for three days I could hardly swallow or speak. (The treatment seems working. I sleep better now.)
I went to the cashier / pharmacy section to pay the final bills. This is the only place that was rude. No sawadee, no thank you, no ka. I was a little surprised that the low frequency radio treatment, a simple procedure, was 5,800 baht just for the doctor’s fee, and the single sleeping pill was 58 baht! I paid the bill, picked up some medicine, and was discharged from the hospital. Altogether it cost me less than 40,000 baht, including a two-night stay in the hospital’s apartment.
My overall impression is that the hospital is up to the highest standards in the world. It is a viable option if your health insurance plan does not cover certain treatment at home. If you decide to go, you may wish to discuss with your family doctor
first. Be sure to contact the hospital to get the cost. Don’t assume the cost is lower than in your home country. Otherwise, you may be in for a surprise.
Many, many foreigners swear by healthcare in Thailand.
* I would like to encourage any readers with stories about hospitals or medical care in Thailand to send in their stories. This is one aspect of life in Thailand that we have not really covered.