Most people coming from the European and western countries have thought about relocating to Asia to learn more about the culture and the people. Like anyone else, it is important that before opting for relocation, as there are many important concerns that need to be thoroughly discussed, concerns that can help you with your stay in Asia.
One of the most preferred Asian countries for relocation is Thailand. This country has a rich historical and cultural background. However, there have been some concerns that expatriates should be aware of, especially the some issues of medical care in this country.
Officially called as the Kingdom of Thailand, this country is situated in Southeast Asia. On its south is the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos on its east, and Myanmar and the Andaman Sea on its west. The capital city of the Kingdom of Thailand is Bangkok.
Issues Concerning the Health Care System in Thailand
Before one thinks about relocating in Thailand, there are some issues regarding the health care system of this nation that has to be fully understood. These issues, although not intended to shoo away possible expatriates on the country, have to be properly understood.
Thailand has no established primary health care system- Most of the doctors in Thailand are specialists that is why it is hard to find a reliable all around general practitioner to treat you with your minor medical problems. As foreigners, you will have to go to a general hospital, wherein you will be most likely to be examined by a doctor who is specializing in one field to another. Since it is common to have different small medical problems, it is somehow difficult for a medical specialist to deal with that.
This issue was lamented in the Thailand Expat Forum last 25th March 2009:
Thanks for directing me to your post on medical! Scary that there is literally no insurance in country. That means we’re at the mercy of the hospitals and doctors and when they have you at a disadvantage you’re in trouble. I’m sorry about your friend but that makes my point I had a pretty bad accident in Australia a few years back – same thing. I paid probably 10x what I would have paid if I were insured. A lesson learned but it seems in Thailand that option isn’t available.
Any chance I could talk you out of the name of your dentist? It would be worth a Singha or two! The best way to do especially if you are not quite so sure about your problem is simply to seek an internist and simply take it from there. Reports have shown that the health care system heavily relies on the specialized medicine. However, there are still some major hospitals in Thailand that have family doctors or medical practitioners. Expatriates can always make use of that.
Another expat shared a similar experience in the Thailand Expat Forum last June 17, 2009:
As far as Care insurance here is concerned. Just try to get it if you are over a certain age……I was with BUPA in the UK for 30yrs, and when I told them I was coming to live here they wanted to double my weekly fees! I was more than I could easily afford, so I was forced to cancel my policy…..Now I have a ‘Health Account’ in the Bank. It is quite a large sum, but if I have a long debilitating illness, it will undoubtedly run out! So hopefully, I will have a massive Heart Attack and go quickly…….
All this is very depressing but one has to face up to harsh reality.
Most doctors in Thailand that work in hospitals do not actually do so fulltime as Thai surgeons and physicians have different working schedules at different hospitals that are spread over the whole of Bangkok. Because of this, doctors are likely to go from a certain hospital to another to do their rounds and also perform other medical procedures like surgery. Additionally, these doctors also have private clinics. They actually work altogether for very long hours. You could only imagine the problems they can create. Let’s say you just had a surgery done in one hospital and in one instance, problems arise after the surgery. There are possibilities that your surgeon might be performing a surgery in another hospital, or he is at his private clinic. So your doctor ends up solving your problem thru a mobile phone, giving instructions to the nursing staff. That’s quite alarming, isn’t it?
Emergency transport facilities in Thailand are not that fully developed yet. – Large hospitals in Thailand have mobile intensive care units where you could be immediately be treated for emergency situations. However, rarely do you emergency ambulances racing the streets of Bangkok. Although traffic accidents are attended to, volunteer organizations are normally the ones to provide rescue units, along with passers-by. The traffic problem in Thailand is one of the major impediments in emergency services. You cannot just expect them to provide optimal trauma and safe medicine, can you? Based from the Yellow pages of Thailand, their emergency hotline number is 1699 however, there have been no recent reports as to how the service works or if they really operate in the first place.
Main Obstacles in Medical Emergencies
In terms of emergency transports, the main obstacle in medical emergencies is the traffic in Bangkok. Unwanted delays are unavoidable, not unless you are in close proximity to a hospital. Cars do not give way that easily for responding ambulances. So if you have medical problems that need immediate attention in some situations, as much as possible, stay in a place near to a suitable hospital. Researchers could only expand the issue on this: How possible is it to develop emergency medicines when in the first place, no emergencies arrive in the hospitals?
Having a complete set-up to treat different controlled or stable condition is one thing. But being capable to deal with emergency procedures is another. Because developments of emergency medicines would normally rely on fast access to suitable hospitals most of the time, along with the availability of ambulances that can take you to the closest hospitals, Thailand is far from being there yet.
For those traffic accidents, you can always seek help from the Police Hospital at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.
Money is Important!
Most westerners are fortunate to have obligatory insurance, or assumed having a medical insurance. Still, when you are in Thailand, see to it that your cash or credit card is always ready, or at least, have on hand the most pertinent medical insurance documents. In cases of hospital admissions, you are required to pay up front for the treatments. There have been stories appearing in a local Thai newspaper about a young Thai couple that was turned down upon arriving in a private hospital, only to find out that cannot be accommodated just because they cannot show the money. This is somewhat a major ethical flaw in Thailand’s health care system.
Although general treatment and admission in private hospitals is quite pleasant, demanding for money up front just to be accommodated is just very impolite and inappropriate.
In most European countries, problems like these are normally avoided because in the first place, patients have obligatory medical insurance and hospitals are confident enough about getting paid.
Staying in Thailand is generally pleasant except for some health care issues that are quite concerning. In order to avoid this, before you relocate to this Southeast Asian country, see to it that you already have applied for an international health care system insurer. That way, you will not have to worry about anything, especially in medical emergencies.