Spoiler alert: The system can be quite convoluted, but this step-by-step guide breaks it down for you.
In the first wave of the outbreak, all COVID-19 patients in Thailand were placed in a hospital for treatment and monitoring purposes. But a rising number of cases (especially during the third wave of the outbreak in April 2021) and limited hospital capacity prompted the building of field hospitals and introduction of ‘hospitels’ (a portmanteau of hospital and hotel) for patients with milder symptoms.
Then came news such as this: Largest and best field hospital closes its doors.
While this is a sign that vaccinations are ploughing ahead, cases are stabilizing, and we’re all learning to live with the virus, it begs the question: ‘What actually happens when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in Thailand? After all, it’s good to know these things in advance so that you’re prepared in the event that you or your loved ones do test positive. As an expat myself, I’m aware that reliable information in English is hard to come by so I’ll give you the full low-down in this blog post.
Step 1: Getting medical advice for COVID-19
If you suspect that you might have COVID-19, you can reach out to the National Health Security Office (NHSO) for medical advice. Dial 1330, press 0, and ask for an English-speaking advisor. The advisor should help check your symptoms and tell you what to do.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Fever or temperature of ≥ 37.5° C
- Nasal mucus
- Sore throat
- Loss of sense of smell
- Loss of sense of taste
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Red eyes
Step 2: Testing for COVID-19
There are two COVID-19 tests you can do: an Antigen Test Kit or an RT-PCR Test. Typically, suspected positive cases do an Antigen Test Kit first, and then an RT-PCR Test if the result is positive.
Antigen Test Kit
Certified Antigen Test Kits can be bought from any hospital, medical clinic, or licensed pharmacy. They offer immediate results (typically in less than 30 minutes).
- If the test is negative, but you are deemed a high-risk contact, you should do another test 5-7 days after the first test. You should also isolate yourself for 14 days.
- If the test is negative, but you have respiratory symptoms, you should go to a hospital for a doctor’s consultation and/or treatment.
- If your test is positive, you should go to a hospital for an RT-PCR test and for a doctor’s consultation and/or treatment.
Contact the hospital you wish to go to, tell them your situation, and ask them how to get an RT-PCR Test. Different hospitals may have slightly different procedures. I’ll outline the procedure for Samitivej Hospital, as this is the hospital I’m most familiar with.
Samitivej Hospital requires you to make an appointment at least 1 day in advance by dialing 020-222-222 or sending an email to email@example.com. A member of staff will then confirm the date and time of your test. You’ll have to wait at home for the results, which typically takes between 24 to 48 hours. During this time, you should isolate yourself at home.
Again, if you test negative, your doctor may advise you to do another test based on your risk level and symptoms.
Step 3: Testing positive for COVID-19
So, there we have it: testing positive for COVID-19. Under the ‘traffic light system’, you’ll be assigned a color - green (no/little symptoms), yellow (mild to moderate symptoms), or red (moderate to severe symptoms).
Here’s what happens next:
- Green: You’ll be required to go home or to a hospitel for isolation and/or treatment.
- Yellow: You’ll be required to go to a hospitel or hospital for isolation and/or treatment.
- Red: You’ll be required to go to a hospital for isolation/and or treatment.
Note: As alluded to previously, hospitels are hotels that partner with hospitals, and accept COVID-19 patients. Admission to a hospital or hospitel also depends on availability of beds, but treatment and medication can still be provided in all cases.
Step 4: Treatment plan for COVID-19 patients
Based on the location you’re isolating and/or receiving treatment in (home, hospitel, or hospital), here’s what you need to know about the treatment plan. Again. I’m basing this on Samitivej Hospital, but other hospitals should have similar programs.
- Home: A doctor or specialist will examine you initially. The nursing team will follow up on a daily basis via a phone call to monitor your body temperature and oxygen saturation. You’ll also attend a virtual consultation to follow up with a doctor every 3 days.
- Hospitel: The hospital will direct you to the hotels they partner with. Registered nurses will be on standby at the hotel around the clock to check-in on you and you’ll also have access to virtual consultation with a doctor.
- Hospital: You may require further diagnostic tests including chest X-ray and/or blood testing, and a treatment plan will be developed based on this. If it’s known, you’ll also get an estimate of the number of days you’ll be required to stay in the hospital for treatment.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The likes of Samitivej Hospital, Bumrungrad Hospital, and Bangkok Hospital are far from cheap. But that’s the price most people (especially expats like myself who are far away from home) are willing to pay for first-rate, quality healthcare with excellent service and amenities in Thailand. That’s why I highly recommend securing an expat health insurance plan so that you don’t have to pay out of pocket.
It’s truly a misconception that expat health insurance plans are very expensive and/or out of reach. In reality, these plans are highly customizable and can be tailored to your unique needs and/or budget. As I work for a health insurance broker, I’m more than happy to explain all things health insurance and walk you through your options. Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact my team at Pacific Prime Thailand.