I managed to go over four years without going to see a doctor, primarily due to the fact that you can get all kinds of things over the counter at pharmacies here. But I recently finally gave in, tired of getting constant sinus infections, and had my Thai fiancé take me to what's considered a semi-private hospital here in Bangkok.
Keep in mind that, in Thailand, going "to the hospital" can just be for a routine check-up. In other countries, hospitals are typically reserved for more severe illnesses and medical centers or just plain ‘ole doctor offices take care of the rest. Here, though, most often all of these needs are combined into one facility.
I must say, having gone with others before to appointments at government hospitals, I'm impressed. Everything was well-organized, the appointments actually ran on time (shocking, and in contrast to the government hospitals I've been to), and the doctors/nurses had an understandable grasp of English. Granted, the trip was an absolute waste (I was told exactly what I already know and given Sudafed), but it's good to know that if something did come up, this breed of semi-private hospitals exist.
The whole experience took me just under two hours, which compared to even a fully private hospital in the States is basically nothing. Granted, this isn't an emergency room situation; I had an appointment (on a Sunday, no less), but still, I never for a moment anticipated it would actually run on time. This IS Thailand, after all.
Also, keep in mind that I don't have health insurance (haven't since moving to Thailand), and the whole ordeal-doctor's visit, some minor sinus treatment, and two medicine orders from the in-house pharmacy-cost just 1,250 baht. That's what, about US$40? In the States, even with good insurance (which I previously had), that wouldn't even cover one prescription.
Yes, I realize you Europeans actually have semi-intelligent governments and have generally good (or at least decent) affordable healthcare systems, but for Americans this low price point for the level of service is quite a pleasant surprise. I fully understand the whole "medical tourism" thing now.
As stated, I have been to fully government hospitals in Bangkok with others before too, and although the sheer volume of patients there is enormous, on the whole I'd say they still operate more smoothly that the majority of hospitals I've visited in the States.
Yes, the wait times are ridiculous, but the doctors seem qualified and the prices are very low compared to the States, insurance or no insurance. I've also been to fully private hospitals visiting friends in Chaing Mai, and although I can't attest to the price, I can say the level of care there was exactly what you'd expect from a high end medical facility.
So... for those of you afraid of getting sick in Thailand, I can confidently say-and this is coming from someone that hates going to doctors-don't worry. I'd still recommend taking someone Thai to help out, but the facilities and services I've seen and experienced are affordable and decent.
I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.