I’m sick in Thailand, what now?
There’s nothing worse than being sick, and being sick abroad makes matters even worse. It’s important you have health insurance – regardless of how long you are staying in Thailand. This will certainly help reduce your stress if you get sick, as the last thing you want to worry about is how you’re going to pay for treatment.
Depending on your condition, it will alter where you go to get treated. For example, if you have a cold or a minor sore throat the best place to go is a local pharmacy. Here you will be able to buy standard over the counter medicines as well as antibiotics if necessary. These are far cheaper at a pharmacy than at a clinic or hospital and many pharmacists are quite knowledgeable if you go to a reputable one.
If you have something slightly more serious or you need a diagnosis you can go to a local clinic. These are fairly easy to find and plentiful in number. Naturally some are better than others so it is a good idea to seek advice where possible or as a last resort go to one that appears to be quite busy. This is usually a good guide to the level of treatment that you will receive. The cost of your treatment will be far lower than what you may be used to in your home country but you will be expected to pay straight after your treatment. If your health insurance covers this you will need to claim this back from them using receipts.
For anything more serious it is advisable to go to a hospital. Hospitals in Thailand vary from relatively cheap government hospitals to expensive, state of the art private hospitals. When you go to the hospital you will need to take your passport and your insurance documents with you. You will then go to a check in desk where you will be met by a nurse. You will need to explain your condition to her and she will then take you to the relevant department. Obviously, at this point you should disclose any allergies.
When you get to relevant department you will initially be seen quite quickly for a check up which will involve your blood pressure being taken and an overall check. If you do not need to be admitted you will be given the necessary treatment and tablets there and then. Again your insurance may not cover outpatient treatment so you will be expected to pay on your departure.
If you need to be admitted to the hospital you will need to provide all your insurance documents. If the insurance immediately agrees to pay the costs the treatment will also begin immediately. If the insurance company does not agree straight away or you don’t have any insurance, the hospital may ask for a bond of THB100,000 before treatment will begin – although if it is life threatening they will stabilise you. Depending on the amount you pay will determine the accommodation that you have. If you pay a minimal amount or go to a government hospital you will probably be on a ward with other patients. If you pay more you will get a private room with varying degrees of luxury.
Thai hospitals do like to keep patients in hospital longer than what we are perhaps used to in the west. There is in reality very little that can be done about this so, it is a case of just playing the waiting game which can be frustrating. The checking out process can also fairly long and drawn out, often taking literally hours whilst doctors, nurses and accounting staff all ensure that everything has been covered. It is also likely that they will insist on someone coming to collect you rather than making your own way home or back to your hotel – something that occasionally can be quite difficult, especially if you need to go to a hospital outside of your home city.
In general, private Thai hospitals are pretty good and the level of treatment is of a standard comparable to that in the west especially if you are in one of the big cities or a resort town. If you go to a smaller hospital or a government hospital you may have issues with lack of equipment or perhaps not have the facilities to treat certain conditions. This may lead to you being transferred to a hospital further away.
Really the lesson to be learned is – make sure you have adequate health insurance.