Category Archives: Health

Chiang Mai Ram Hospital

Chiang Mai Ram Hospital is the first Thai hospital I ever visited. It is also the premier private hospital in Chiang Mai. I visited it the first time when I was visiting family in Chiang Mai while on vacation. Unfortunately, I had forgotten a prescription drug I was taking and unlike many drugs, it was only available in Thailand at the hospital pharmacy with a local prescription. I’ve later learned that you can use a hospital pharmacy (which may take better care to avoid counterfeit drugs than some stand alone pharmacies, although prices are higher) just like a regular pharmacy without seeing the doctor first for drugs that do not require a prescription in Thailand.

Since then, I have visited several other times on an outpatient basis. The quality of the doctor’s English has ranged from perfectly fluent to fair.

Since my family lives on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, they drove me in and parked in the attached parking structure. Ram hospital is located just outside the moat, but I can’t give any better directions than that, since I’ve never navigated there on my own. The elevator from the parking garage spits you out in the corner of a large central atrium area that can be somewhat overwhelming. There are cryptic signs in Thai, English and now Chinese labeling various stations. On my most recent visit in early 2012, the signs seem to be being upgraded and offer slightly more information. As always, you will need to register at the front desk before being seen for the first time. Unfortunately, the front desk is oriented for people coming in from the front entrance off the street, so coming from the parking garage can be disorienting.

From there you will be directed to the proper vitals station (which may at be a station in the central atrium or on another floor). I have had several different experiences with blood pressure at Ram hospital depending on the year and the clinic I was visiting. At least once they just gave up when the blood pressure cuff didn’t fit and other times they had substitute cuffs available.

The good news is the Ram Hospital is the only hospital in Thailand that I have visited that had scrubs that fit, even the pants fit, which is harder to find because I am pear-shaped. The shirt I was given for an X-ray procedure was actually too big, but it had enough ties to keep it decent.

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BNH Hospital

BNH Hospital (formerly British Nursing Home) is a well-respected, private hospital in Bangkok. It targets expats and is located within walking distance (about 3 blocks) of the Silom/Sala Daeng BTS/MRT interchange. As such it is a little bit farther away and harder for me to get, but another expat recommended an English speaking doctor there and so I went.

They are undergoing renovations right now, some things are not as pretty as others, but in general the facilities are nice looking. It is not a huge place and is built around a central courtyard which is nice.

The staff and nurses have a generally higher standard of English than some other private hospitals, although English abilities vary. Dr. Irene, the internist I spoke with was very good and willing to answer questions and give practical advice.

I found the same general problem with blood pressure machines and the question of what (if anything) to do if the cuff doesn’t fit, but Dr. Irene had her own stethoscope and blood pressure unit and took it manually herself. In addition, the nurse found a bigger cuff attachment for the regular machine that seemed better than some.

On a later visit, I was hospitalized for a few days and got to experience their hospital scrubs and standard of care. Unfortunately, Dr. Irene was away so I was left at the mercy of nurses and a visiting specialist who did not speak as much English. Like many Thai institutions, there were many times when it was not clear what was going on and it was hard to get answers.

However, I was generally satisfied with the standard of care. The nurses who took blood pressure used a cuff that (mostly) fit and the scrubs outfit that was provided more or less fit in the way of hospital clothes. In other words, it covered the pertinent parts, but was not particularly comfortable and tended to fall open or ride up without lots of attention. Not really a problem when you’re laying in bed and can put a sheet over you anyway, but somewhat nerve-wracking if you’re being carted around for x-rays.

The only possible size-related complaint I have is that when I was at Sukhumvit hospital the orderlies would come daily to change the sheets and suggest I take a shower. While I don’t really want people coming around telling me to take a shower, the benefit was that they provided a cover for my IV port and offered a sponge bath when they thought the IV was connected. Now I don’t particularly want a sponge bath if I can avoid it, but I’m not used to being hooked up to things and didn’t know what was allowed and what wasn’t. The Sukhumvit orderlies didn’t really speak any English, but we managed to make ourselves more or less understood. The BNH orderlies on the other hand, just didn’t say anything. I don’t know whether it was size or nationality based discrimination (they didn’t want to deal with a “fat farang”) or something more benign (miscommunication) but it would have been nice to get a little bit of clarification.

Sukhumvit Hospital

Sukhumvit Hospital was the first hospital I visited when I moved Thailand, since I had the required physical for my work permit here. It is a private hospital about a block from the Ekamai BTS station right on Sukhumvit Rd in Bangkok and is easy to find. Like all of the Thai hospitals I know there is a front desk or registration area shortly after you walk in the main door.  The first time you come, they will take your passport and enter you into their system and give you a patient card. I’d also highly recommend getting the membership card, which gives you a 10% discount on medicine and services at the hospital.

At least one of the ladies at the front desk speaks decent English and will direct you to the nurses’ station to have your vitals taken and the correct doctor. If you come after 7pm, the front desk will not be staffed and you will be directed to the Emergency Room. Unfortunately, if your arm is too big for the mechanized blood pressure machine, the nurses here don’t seem to have any interest in taking an accurate blood pressure manually. The doctor may request a larger blood pressure cuff and take your blood pressure manually, but the staff at the nurses station does not seem to have a manual blood pressure taking device or they may not be able to take blood pressure manually. Based on my experience at Sukhumvit Hospital, including spending 2 days as an inpatient, they may only have one larger blood pressure cuff. The nurses on the ward ended up taking my blood pressure at my ankle. Getting an accurate blood pressure read in Thailand is remarkably difficult if your arm doesn’t fit in the automated machine. Most of the staff doesn’t seem to realize that taking blood pressure over and over again leads to a distorted reading also.

Like all of the hospitals I’ve been in in Thailand so far, there is free bottled water at various stations where you may wait and scattered large screen TVs in the waiting areas. The English of the staff varies from none to fair and the English of the doctors’ is fair to good.

Other than the blood pressure problem, which is more or less the same everywhere I’ve been in Thailand, the only other size related problem I had was with the hospital scrubs/gowns.

I was admitted to Sukhumvit Hospital for pneumonia and had to have a chest X-ray. The wrap and tie style shirt they gave me to change into was barely big enough and I ended up mostly holding it closed. But the scrubs they provided when I moved into the room were not big enough. There was a loop of fabric that was a part of the sheet set that I commandeered for a tube sarong that fit beautifully though. I thought this was the best hospital wear ever, since it was super comfy and there was no gapping, but the orderlies were distressed since it wasn’t proper clothing and didn’t cover my arms (which is important for modesty in Thailand). However, they couldn’t find a larger size of scrubs, so that’s what I wore. When I changed the second day, I had to do the same point and shrug explanation with the new orderlies, but we all survived.

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