I had to remember the many times I have gone to Emergency with my friend Jim who had a heart transplant when he was 39. The last time at the University of Washington, a great American research hospital rated highly in the nation, we waited 9 hours desperate to see a doctor for him and never did get seen before we both just went home. The intake nurse didn’t speak enough English to pick up that Jim was a transplant which meant he had to wait with the other “emergencies” for hours on end.
As I write I am in the middle to end (hopefully) stages of Dengue fever. Having heard for the last 30 years that our US Health care system is the best in the world and thus justifying it’s expense I am compelled to describe my experience here in Bangkok for the curious. I had always heard some people come to Bangkok just for medical. But now I was going to have to be inside the hospital as a patient myself and see how it really works from the inside and on a real live patient… Me.
I had an appointment for a check up at 8:30. So checked in at 8:20. The lobby and the whole facility are beautiful modern design but the best part is there is no staff shortage. You feel like there are always 2 or 3 nurses waiting to assist you. (I’ve been in the hospital in the U.S. where one nurse was on a whole ward.) In the U.S. the nurses often wear “scrubs” which make me feel like I’m going to the car mechanic. Maybe if I am in the ICU I don’t care but there is a limit. Here the nurses are dressed immaculately in starched form fitting uniforms, not provocative but sharp and professional.
At 8:30 they called my name and my wife’s and like going station to station they efficiently took all our vitals, one of us going to the X ray while the other had the EKG done. All coordinated like a ballet with a number of other patients doing the same thing. Size, weight, blood pressure, EKG, chest X ray, blood draw, urinalysis, and stool check. Then at about 9:15 we were done and they gave us coupons for breakfast while we waited for our results and to see a general physician to go over the test results. Would this be a few days wait in the states? Did I mention all the lobbies have FREE coffee, tea, espresso, purified water and such. About 10:45 a nurse came and got us, said all our tests were done and escorted us to a fine older gentlemen doctor from Australia or the U.K.
I explained to him my concerns about Dengue and he started looking at all the blood tests they did. There was a long list he went through but in the end he said that my white blood cell count and platelets indicated to him I needed to see a specialist. By 11:10 I was meeting with the specialist. At 11:25 the specialist said “we need to put you in the hospital and monitor you for internal bleeding, platelet count and IV and stomach medicine.” He called a nurse who check with the hospital intake and apologized that we would have to wait since they didn’t have a room yet. In the mean time she brought out a clear chart explaining exactly how much the room would cost, with meals, nursing care, hospital service fees and everything included. $275 a day. (Contrast that to $7000 average per day in Northern California.) I will update this figure when I check out, for all the meds, IV’s and such. We waited until 11:55 when they brought a wheel chair out and took me to a room. “So sorry for the wait Mr Bade.” (I’m thinking… that was really fast…)
The private room is like an expensive hotel room with a view of a lovely garden and fountain. It is clean, well designed, with a beautiful flat screen TV, soft or bright lighting, a couch, fridge, sink, private ba th and shower, soft chairs to sit in and a dining table. The care has been constant. I get my vitals checked every hour to hour and a half, the doctor has visited 3 times today, A nurse will come with in 1 to 2 minutes every time I call. The food is great and I can order from a menu and it doesn’t taste like last weeks cafeteria food. It gives one and appetite.
I don’t speak any Thai yet with BNH here in Bangkok my English is understood just fine by every nurse and doctor. I write this not to put down care in the U.S. but to share with you there are other countries providing great healthcare at a fraction of the cost we are getting in the U.S. and not sacrificing quality. Why can’t we do better? Why are Americans afraid of health care reform?