30 August 2005

If you see someone hobbling down Rama I Road...

Well, I'm in Bangkok. And I'm out of the hospital. I'd e-mailed for a doctor's appointment just before I arrived, and I had the appointment just after I arrived. The doctor listened to what I had to say and referred me to a specialist, who was able to see me two hours later.

The next day, I was in the hospital having minor surgery (a muscle biopsy, in case you're interested).

There are a couple of things to note here. One is the speed with which things happened, compared to the United States. The only time things happened that quickly for me there was when they thought I might have lymphatic cancer that they'd been missing for a while. (It turned out to be sarcoidosis that they'd been missing for a while.)

The standard of care here is the equal of anything I've seen in the US, at least at the fancy hospital I go to. It's clean, extremely efficient, fully accredited, and has well-qualified doctors, most of whom studied in the US. And just like at home, most of the medical personnel speak English with a non-US accent.

But what I wanted to talk about here was cost. I saw two doctors, had minor surgery, stayed a night in the hospital in a private room, and took crutches and painkillers away with me. In the US, this could easily cost $7500.

Here, I was quoted a range of 28,000-35,000 baht ($683-854), and asked to pay the lower amount as a deposit. And in the end, it turned out to be only 25,500 baht ($622), and I received a refund.

Now, the vast majority of Thais could never afford this. But to an American, those prices look pretty good. It's easy to see why this hospital gets 350,000 foreign patients every year.

And I'm fine, thanks. I've been spending a lot of time in bed, but as I've been unable to lie on my stomach or left side, typing has been hard. Today I'm out and about for the first time in a week, and I'm writing from Starbucks in Siam Discovery Centre.

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