Siriraj, the University Hospital
I wanted to go there for a heart check up. I have a condition that actually needs monitoring from time to time, and I have been neglecting it for quite a while. An Indian friend who’s retired here and lived almost all his adult life in the US recently spoke highly of the Siriraj how good it was, how nice the people were… so I thought, why not go there and maybe save some money, since it is a government hospital.
I have been there once myself, twelve years ago, and I remember that they cared for me quite well, but I did remember that the registration process was somewhat complicated. I do remember that the people were friendly back then, however they did not find out what was wrong with me. No Thai doctor or hospital, private or government did – and I saw plenty of them. I had to fly to the West and the first doctor I went to see found it out. I had Lyme disease. I don't want to imagine what would have happened if I stayed in Thailand.
Well I am not going to write all of this, because all is perfect and nice at the Siriraj, right. So I drove all the way on my motorbike from around Asoke to the Siriraj. Yeah, I was not stopped by the police and you know what, folks? Just don’t let them know you are farang, that’s it. Cover your face with a dust mask or something and wear sunglasses. Have a normal body size and don't drive a big motorcycle. Like this, I never get randomly stopped by the gangsters, sorry, I mean boys in brown. If I got stopped, I really did something wrong and I deserved the fine, like driving with my motorbike on the highway and stuff that I knew was not allowed. But don't buy a motorcycle because of me, the people drive totally unpredictably and every day on a Thai road can be your last. I really hate Sundays, cos that's when the Thais speed, so I am thankful for days with traffic jams!
I am still unsure what is the best transportation in Bangkok. Taxi drivers can be rude, can cheat you and drive extremely dangerously. When you have your own car you get pulled over all the time and you are responsible for everything, especially when an accident happens and sometimes I think walking around in the city is the most dangerous thing of all to do, especially in the small sois with no sidewalks and all this pollution. We are all gonna have lung cancer one day for sure. Anything is dangerous and crazy here. If it's not dangerous and crazy, it is at least complicated, like using the MRT, BTS, boats and buses and combining them all. Anyway, let’s carry on with the story that I wanna tell.
So the Siriraj is a monster place. There are also bus loads of people coming in every day, yeah, to sign the book. I parked my motorbike somewhere. I actually asked a police guy where to park it. He did not arrest me on the spot or asked for a bribe cos I am farang with a motorcycle, just to let you know. Then I took a motorcycle taxi cos I thought the guy knew where the hospital registration was. I mean these are the Siriraj motorcycle guys! He took me straight to the ferry pier, the moron! Staying long in Thailand feels like groundhog day over and over again. I walked back into the monster and asked about 10 people where to register, since I did not have a hospital card. What actually happened was they sent me to the place where you sign the guest book. 2 Groundhog days in 1. But after asking a couple of more people, I mean not random people, I mean hospital staff, I finally found it. Maybe I had to ask 15 people in total. Some confused left with right (in their own language) and sent me around in a circle.
At the OPD the people were rude and the whole process was complicated. You need to go to three different counters to get a simple hospital card. The first counter will ask you for your passport. I just had my national ID with me, so the headache started there already. Somehow they accepted it and they sent me to copy the ID. There was a long queue and it took me about 15 minutes to reach the girl with the copy machine. Also, she was not friendly by any means. Then I asked a guy in a green jacket what to do next and it turned out he was the only one who was nice and friendly and actually could speak English. So IF you really have to go to Siriraj, remember to look out for the people in green jackets. I think they are some kind of 'tourist police' there. Oh well, I did not see any other farang. I thought the place was crowded by Khao San folks, but maybe they prefer the Mission hospital? Well they seem to have a good nose! I should have gone to the Mission hospital myself!
So the 3rd stop on the way to the hospital card was the worst. This woman was a total idiot. First she asked me what I wanted to do at the hospital. I said I wanted to check up my heart. She then used very informal Thai with a lot of "wa wa wa…" you maybe know what I mean. Rude! Then I addressed her in Thai and I told her to speak dee dee (good). That usually works and it also worked with her, but I expected her not to do it in the first place, since this was the Siriraj, not Patpong or MBK. And she got everything wrong. Even now on my registration card, my birthday is wrong. The month was an 8 not a 3! She asked me many times what country I am from. I wrote it on the application and it is written on my national ID she had in her hands. There is even a flag. <Seeing that flag she probably thought you were from the Red Cross! – Stick>
I have been in Thailand long enough to know that this brainlessness is the standard here, but what I thought was not acceptable was the rudeness of the staff at a hospital that is famous and respected like the Siriraj. But I thought, well, this is just registration and it will all get better.
It didn’t. Since nobody understood what I wanted they said I should see a normal doctor first. Thinking the doctor would understand what the crazy farang wanted I could accept that. First they said wait 20 minutes. No problem. Then I asked the nurse desk when the time came, if I now could see the doctor or how long it took or if I should come back another time and make an appointment. I was not pushy at all, I asked friendly. They looked at each other and again, they thought I would not understand what they were saying and I could not believe they used again bad language and said something like: "What the heck does this guy want! I don’t want to talk to him, I don't want to deal with that farang. The doctor is not in anyway, I have no idea where he is so you (looking at her friend) tell him to come back in 2 hours." As they wanted to explain it to me in English, I had already translated the whole thing for them and said word by word in English what they had said to each other. Then I just left them staring at each other and wanted to go back and do the heart check up somewhere near my place, like Param9 hospital or something like that. Param9 I went one time, they f-up my toe that I broke and yeah I can’t bend it anymore thanks to them and their super treatment, but hey at least they were friendly!
But on the way out I saw they have some cardio clinic and I went inside. The receptionists were extremely friendly (a bit of a culture shock after what just happened) but told me that this was a private clinic. So I asked for the price of an ECG and they told it to me. It was quite alright, actually the doctor's fee was higher but all in all, the total was acceptable. However, if you want more than just a simple ECG, expect almost western prices.
The heart, I think the clinic is called, is very nice. However, no staff speak English, including doctors, or at least the one I met. Maybe it was my unlucky day? I might be unjust if I say this, but the doctor I saw had difficulty to express himself in English and if it is a complicated medical matter, I don’t want to guess around what he means. Anyway, the whole process up there was smooth and nice, except for the missing language skills. The clientèle there are rich Chinese, some Indians too. No farang. If you can afford it, maybe try the Bangkok Hospital or the Bangkok Nursing Home where they can speak English. Maybe the best English you get at Yanhee by the way as they hire Philippinos. But then again, you are better off in the West. If you are insured and you can do it there, don’t do anything medical over here if you can avoid it, except maybe dental work and some facial stuff like Botox and skin laser treatment etc. But even that can be a gamble. Just imagine you have some serious condition here and you need to deal with these people.
The language barrier, cultural barrier…brain barrier…I can get a heart attack just by dealing with them. But maybe that's what they want so they can have me as their patient!
Funny story! Yeah, there are reasons why foreigners tend to gravitate towards private hospitals although you do hear of foreigners who have been happy with the treatment and care they received in a government hospital.
I swear by BNH Hospital in Soi Convent. It's considered one of the best hospitals in Thailand (Bumrungrad is generally considered #1) and the few times I have been I have been very well taken care of and the doctors have been excellent.