Health care in rural Thailand

In a word, don’t trust hospitals in rural Thailand. Now a disclaimer: I’ve never been to a hospital in Thailand. I only know one person who has had a negative experience in a Thai hospital. So I’m not saying all Thai hospitals are bad or anything like that. I’m just pointing out that when you travel, medical facilities may not be what you’re used to.

Here’s the story. My friend was doing some adventurous travel in Thailand when she cut herself rather badly. Nothing life threatening, but serious enough to send her to the hospital for stitches. She reports that the hospital was incredibly dirty.

To make a long story short (she thinks because the hospital was so dirty), she got an infection and decided that rather to risk a stay in the hospital, she would fly to Korea. Needless to say, a commercial flight with a bad infection is no fun at all. If you can afford the international travel, you should strongly consider a few extra bucks for insurance that covers medical evacuation.

Filed Under: International travel medical insurance

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  1. William Ballinger says:

    My wife got very sick and had to be hospitalized

    in Pattaya, Thailand this past January while we

    were on a mission trip. I found the hospital to

    be one of the finest and most modern I had ever

    seen. My wife is a Nurse and believe me I have

    seen some in the states that are bad. But she

    received such outstanding care there that I had

    to write the administrator and congratulate him

    on the professional manner in which he ran this.

    Within 32 minutes after we entered the ER, she

    had been admitted, on IV’s and was placed on an

    “international” floor where the nurses and doctors spoke english. I was provided excellent

    living conditions in her room for the 4 days she

    was there. Even the discharge would put an ordinary stateside hospital to shame. And all for

    the cost of ($967.00). This is everything.

  2. Suratchana (Kittirat) Tiravanija says:

    I am glad Mr. William Ballinger had a personal experience in Thailand with hospital care and took the time to give credit to the Thai hospital in the famous beach resort, Pattaya.

    In March,2004,my 78 year old mother, a Dentist who formerly served as a civil servant, fell and felt pain and piercing pinches all over her legs. She was admitted to the Thammasat University Hospital in Pathumthani Province and

    after a week of thorough check-up and x-rays and unclear diagnosis of what exactly was the cause of such pain, a young and capable Thai neurologist, Dr. Kongkiat, was called in and immediately diagnosed her with the Guillain Barre Syndrome, an acute infection of the nervous system which if left unattended could leave the patient paralyzed. The case is so rare in Thailand that my mother was recorded as a case study for Medical students and even in the U.S.A, one out of 100,000 people is infected by this disease. The immediate care and injection of appropriate medication helped stop the paralysis. I never thought my mother would walk again but with the professionalism of our Thai Doctors and 10,000 US dollars for the imported medication which was borne by the Royal Thai Government as part of the benifit given to civil servants, my mother has now fully recovered and back on her heels again through constant physical therapy and daily walks. I think this case should point out that Thailand can indeed serve as a medical hub to the region and can cater to the needs of any patient from anywhere around the world.

  3. Neal R. Yekes, RN says:

    Over the course of the past 5 years I have visited many Thai hospitals and meet with many Thai physicians and nurses. I also had a consultant examine nursing education and practice in Thailand. The consultant’s opinion was the Thai system was very similar to that in the United States. She was of the opinion that English language Thai nursing schools would likely be eligible for US accreditation.

    My own observation has been that Thai hospitals are on a par with those in the United States. In rural areas of the US hospitals may not be as modern or well equiped as those in the larger population centers but they are adequate and can stabilize a patient so they can be transfered to a more appropriate facility. Such is the case in Thailand too. In the smaller rural facilities I visited I found the staff to be capable though the facilities might not have the latest high tech equipment. In one of the rural hospitals I was shown the dialysis room. It was very similar to what we have in the US. In Bangkok and other large population centers the hospitals are as well equipped as those in major population centers in the US.

    As to the physicians, a significant number are educated at least partially abroad. Usually these physicians are educated in the US and a great many still hold US professional certification. Unlike physicians of other nationalities, Thai physicians usually return home when their education is complete. This is why they are seldom seen in most parts of the US.

    The medical education system in Thailand is based on the US model. The father of the present King, Prince Mahidol, made it his life’s work to bring modern medicine to Thailand. He enrolled in Harvard Medical School where he graduated with honors in 1928. He was also inducted into Apha Omega Alpha, the national honor society for physicians. During his stay in the US Prince Mahidol convinced the Rockefeller Foundation to fund medical education in the US for a group of Thai men and women. It was from this seed the modern Thai healthcare system grew.

    Sadly, Prince Mahidol died in 1929. He did not live to see his dream fulfilled. But the seed he planted grew and flourished. Each January the Prince Mahidol Foundation awards cash prizes to the physicians who, in the opinion of the committee, have made the greatest contribution to public health. Last year an American, Eugene Goldwasser,MD and Harald zur Hausen, M.D. received the prize.

    Today Thailand’s health system is on a par with the developed countries. I don’t know where your friend was treated but in the many Thai hospitals I have visited I did not see what you described. They have always been adequate to excellent depending on the location. I would not for an instance hesitate to allow a Thai hospital to treat me or any of my family.

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