Thailand50 - Health Care

Health Care

Rising medical costs in the West have forced patients to seek out alternative medical treatment and with over 400 hospitals throughout the nation Thailand is becoming a medical tourist destination as well a safe haven for long-time residents and retirees.

The government over the last 40 years has actively encouraged the training of doctors and nurses to insure Thais have a health care system second to none in the region. A majority of doctors are educated in specialist courses overseas to provide the hospitals with top-notch treatment in modern hospitals, which have been upgrade with huge investments over the last decades.

Hospitals or 'long-piya-ban' offer a walk in service to see a general practitioner during the daytime hours and also have a 24-hour emergency room service.

Doctors

Most doctors are specialists and rarely GPs. Your best bet in addressing your problem to ask an internist for an evaluation and then go see a specialist if necessary. MDs work at different hospitals and times as well as their private clinic, which means that if you are hospitalized, your doctor might not appear at your bedside too often. Your basic contact will be with nurses with whom communication can be difficult as their English skills are limited.

That said nurses in Thailand are very attentive to patient's needs as long as you treat them with respect and patiently explain your needs. Unlike the west patients are meant to obey the MDs' commands without question. Should you doubt your doctor, this could strain your rehabilitation as he has lost face by your questioning his prognosis, yet as with the west MDs are not always right, so if you think something is wrong, ask for a second opinion, but do so ever so politely.

In addition to multi bed wards, patients have a choice of rooms. (one-bed/two/bed etc.)

Costs

Costs for hospitalization are a fraction of US prices. My daughter was in ICU two weeks with 24-hour care and the bill came to 90,000 baht. In the USA I would have been lucky to have paid that in dollars. Hospital rooms are from 1500-6000/day. Procedures are almost all cheaper than the west and prices are fixed ahead of time. You will be presented a bill at the end of your stay. Demanding a daily count will help keep control of small incidentals or mistakes Outpatient treatment at the larger hospitals is efficient and priced to be competitive with other hospitals.

  • Standard chest X-ray about 250 baht
  • Electrocardiogram 500 baht
  • MRI (including radiologist fee) about 10,000 baht
  • Blood examination 3000-4000 baht.

Birth in Thailand (Foreigner)

Before coming to Thailand a pregnant woman must contact Thailand Immigration and Registration (SIR) office for permission to deliver in Thailand through a local sponsor before her arrival. The local sponsor, a Thailand citizen or Permanent resident, is required to produce copies of Form 14, Form V39 and Form IMME 555. These can be downloaded at www.sir.gov.sg

Also required;

  1. marriage certificate
  2. Local sponsor's identity card or valid re-entry permit
  3. MD letter stating the expected day of delivery and assurances that there will be no complications during birth.
  4. Letter from your embassy granting the child your nationality as well as a promise to issue a valid travel document for the new born.
  5. Your passport.

To register the child's birth you will have to appear 14-42 days after birth at a Birth Registration Centre. The hospital will help you organize this in most cases.

Ambulances

If you have an emergency then best to jump in a taxi or drive yourself to the nearest hospital; rather than wait for assistance. Ambulances tend to be volunteer pick-ups with little or no medical experience other than first-hand. If you have a medical condition, it would be advisable to choose a place a residence not too far from a hospital.

Holiday Medical Emergencies

Most doctors speak good English and any major city will have a private hospital at which service is more suited to western needs.

Health Insurance:

There is a wide variety of health plans offered by hospitals and insurance groups, unless you are over 65 years old. As you get older the cost of insurance increases, so keep up-to-date with your policy to insure maximum coverage. Another option is overseas traveler insurance or GAP insurance which is available in most western countries.

The major test is what percentage is covered by the policy as well as when bills will be paid. Promises are easy when not tested and it is always best to go with more established health plans than try and save a few thousand bath of someone less reputable.

Health Insurance overseas is acceptable at Thai Hospitals but it's handy to have cash/credit cards for emergencies at the hospital. Horror stories of people being denied service are true and not rare. Health insurance is available for foreigners and is very affordable in comparison to Europe and the USA. (20000 baht/year)

Clinics

If your ailment doesn't require a hospital than a visit to a clinic. Doctors served from 8am-8pm. Any range of services can be available at these clinics. Ask which one is the best before going. Locals are helpful with their advice. They are considerably cheaper than a private hospital with fees for seeing a doctor ranging from 100-1000 and very affordable prescription medicines.

Pharmacies

Drugstores are plentiful and many are open 24/7. Most medicine is legitimate and the druggists trained to answer most questions to save you a trip to the hospital for a common cold. Names of drugs differed from the west, but the pharmacist should be able to prescribe you an equivalent. All pharmacies close on the 25th of each month.

Vaccinations for entering Thailand
None are required at present, although it is recommended to have your polio and tetanus vaccines.

Common Medical Problems

Most problems will be minor, but bacteria and viruses are different from your home country, so if a problem persists seek treatment at a nearby clinic. Most medications will resolve the issue.
The change of climate can be very demanding. Your first days in-country take it easy as your body adjust to the temperature. Drink plenty of liquids and refrain from exposure to the sun, as its strength is much stronger than northern climes. Wear a hat and stay out of the sun during the midday hours. Use the strongest unblock possible. If you are after a tan, don't worry, the sun will get to you. Wear loose fitting and cotton clothing to give your skin plenty of ventilation, as then humidity provides fungus with ideal growing conditions, which will result in rashes or itching. After a shower use powder to reduce dampness and a fan is better to cool the body than AC and will ease the period of acclimatization.

Water

Many communities have treatment plants, but local viruses can survive this process. Better to drink bottled water rather than risk a stomach infection. Ice is usually made from either boiled or bottled water. Malaria
Malaria is rare in many tourist destination, however Koh Chang, Koh Samet, and more distant destinations are zones of infestation, so you can avoid risk with several precautions

  1. Spray your room 30 minutes before sleeping
  2. Use masking tape to cover gaps between the screen windows.
  3. Fans will keep mozzies from lighting on your body.
  4. Insect repellant is useful
  5. Wear long sleeves and pants. The less exposure the less risk.

Malarial drugs are usually ineffective and only suggested if you are spending long periods in infested areas, as they have serious side effects.

HIV - AIDS

Thailand has a high rate of AIDS due to failed DEA policies of drug eradication in the North. If you have need of a syringe in a small hospital or clinic make sure that the needle has been sterilized. This is SOP, but being careful doesn't hurt.

Thanks to a condom awareness campaign by Meechai, a Thai government minister, HIV infection rates have fallen dramatically, however it is highly advisable to use condoms when having sex.

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