Could Medical Tourism Help You Too?

WRITTEN BY KRISTA BEAUVAIS

Tired of being on the waiting list for a particular medical procedure in your own country? Is a procedure too expensive? Looking for an affordable alternative? Maybe it’s worth considering medical tourism…

Waiting room

Waiting room upstairs (after being ‘processed’ in reception)

It’s funny how one thing leads to another in this life, particularly when you’re travelling. An annoying ingrown hair has, over many years, turned into a sizeable, hard cyst.

It’s not the type of thing that my national medical insurance will pay for in the UK so I’ve privately paid for and seen a Doctor on Harley Street in London and a Dermatologist in South Africa. Both times, both procedures, no luck. The stupid thing remained and I had no idea what to do about it.

Learning About a Possible Solution

It wasn’t until the day of our wedding when Rowena, the girl doing my make-up mentioned that she’s a Naturopath. She also talked about how she does ‘medical tours’ to Thailand for Australians who need medical procedures that are too expensive in Australia.  She takes her patients to Yanhee Hospital in Bangkok. Our ears tweak and we make a note. Could this be a solution?

Rowena left and Amanda, the girl doing my hair, arrived.  She talked about a trip of hers to Thailand – also to Yanhee – for some procedures for her teeth.  A couple of days later, our Celebrant, Donna, came over to collect some things we wanted to give her.  She mentioned she was thinking of doing a medical tour with Rowena.  Enough said.

In Bangkok Anyway – Why Not Check it Out?

A few days later we investigated online and were very impressed!  A little over a week later, we were finding our way to Yanhee. Here’s an excerpt from our travel journal:

Our trip here this morning, like almost everything in Bangkok since our arrival, is very third world.  It’s not as third world as you can get (we’re not witnessing African-level starvation), but it’s still all very third world.

We pay 6.5BAHT (not even 10 pence) each for a rickety bus ride along a street of shabby buildings, street vendors selling questionable food, sidewalks in various states of disintegration, and the stench of sewage and fumes.

The bus from our accommodation to Yahnee

The bus from our accommodation to Yanhee

We don’t know exactly where we’re going and our view out the window is obscured by signage and the concrete structure high in the air that will one day allow the Skytrain to pass this way.

Inside the bus

Inside the bus

Our ignorance causes us to pass our destination and we’re only awakened to this fact when I question the ticket issuing lady.  Her motions are clear.  We’ve gone too far and need to get off, cross the walkway over the busy road, and go back the other way.

How did we drive path this without noticing it?

How did we drive path this without noticing it?

On top of the walkway, high above the road, we braved the fumes while we tried to get a GPS signal so we could figure out where we were in relation to Yanhee.  We saw we’d overshot by about half a kilometer.  We walked it.

Experience in Reception

We arrived to an 18-story building with flags flying proudly on top. Unsure where to go, we entered the doors that appeared to be the main entrance and found ourselves inside a large air-conditioned foyer. We didn’t know where to go but there was an attendant at the door who pointed us toward the dedicated International Coordinator seated on the right side of the foyer.

Yahnee - nothing third world about it

Yahnee – nothing third world about it

Everything was white and clean and airy.  I looked around, impressed.  It was in stark contrast to everything outside of this building!

In the middle of the foyer was a collection of desks in a large circle, beautiful female attendants in light blue uniforms facing outward. Signs and headsets indicated that these are the phone staff there to answer your every need at every hour of the day.  Yahnee Hospital operates 24/7!

We are seated to the right of this circle, at the desk for the International Coordinator. The attractive, petite English-speaking Thai girl on the other side of the desk asks for a passport to copy and presents a simple form that needs completing.

Everybody is beautiful here!  It is clearly a prerequisite for employment. She wears a blue sign that says ‘I Speak English’ and her English is excellent. The service is swift and professional.

I look around and am amused and in awe of the sexiest little nurses you’ve ever seen! They are all petite and slim with beautiful hair and makeup. Skimpy skirts that lead to hosed legs and high heels cover their small, perky bums.

Their uniforms frame their picture perfect figures beautifully. Some are mauve. Some are robin egg blue. All are tailored with precision and cinched at the waist. I am instantly propelled into feeling the need to diet in a radical manner!

I redirected my attention to our International Coordinator. She made a phone call while I complete the paperwork. We were then presented with a small piece of paper and instructed to take the elevator around the corner to the fourth floor, to the Plastic Surgery Centre.

Major procedure they offer

Major procedure they offer

No appointment has been necessary. We did email a couple of days ago to try and make an appointment but the email response said that, because we were in Bangkok already, we simply needed to drop by and we’d be seen by the doctors on duty. Their website says there are 800 nurses and 400 doctors on staff!

DSC_0565-small

One of their centres

To the Plastic Surgery Waiting Area

The signage off the elevator directed us to the right into another large waiting room almost the same size as the main foyer. The centre of the room was full of soft, comfortable leather seats and sofas in pastels, both green and robin-egg blue.

They all faced away from the entrance and toward the far wall containing a long desk, behind which were many nurses, both seated and milling about, chatting.  Flanking them on either side was a long line of treatment rooms with sliding mirrored doors that reflect the enormous waiting room.

I am immediately struck by the impressive efficiency and orderliness of this place.  We have left the third world behind, all memories of it perfectly cleansed from our memories.  There is no indication of anything but professional aptitude.  In fact, we are now in something that is beyond first world.  Even first world nations couldn’t get this THIS right!

Waiting room

Waiting room

I present my slip to a nurse behind the desk.  She takes blood pressure and height and, asking if we are here for a consultation only or if we also want surgery today.  Amazing!  No six-month waiting period.  No trying to get an appointment with a single-doctor clinic.  Just like that – a bit like ordering a take-away pizza and standing in the foyer waiting for your order to be ready to take away.

We were asked to wait until called. TVs and magazines were available for entertainment. There were a few other obvious foreigners also waiting, but I didn’t even need a full hand of fingers to count them; most were Asian faces. Hospital employees in tiny blue shirts and tight yellow tops on rollerblades, glided effortless past us. All women, of course. All tiny, of course. All beautiful, of course.

Another major procedure they offer

Another major procedure they offer

Time to Meet the Doctor for the Consultation

We waited a maximum of twenty minutes before a cute little Thai nurse arrived and sat beside us. She too wore a blue ‘I Speak English; sign pinned to her chest. She handed us a plastic card that had been personalized; our medical card. She gave the name of the doctor who would see to us, saying that the doctor was still in surgery but he would see us in the treatment room in ten minutes.

We followed her into a treatment room. It was small with an examination bed, a seat, and a tall stainless steel tray with some medical items.  She closed the door behind us and then pulled a pleated curtain across for an extra level of privacy in case the door is opened. She exited through the opposite door, one that presumably leads to medical areas that house the plastic surgeons.

Treatment room

Treatment room

We were not waiting five minutes (just long enough for me to snap a couple of pictures unobserved) when a doctor in royal blue scrubs entered. The same nurse was with him.  He asked the problem and I explained. A quick investigation had the doctor saying,

‘Yes, it can be done.’

He made a few notes on a form, talked to his nurse and told us the cost would be 5,400 BAHT, which is about £118.

‘Would you like the surgery today?’

Yes.

‘How long will we be in Bangkok?’

The doctor would like to see us again in a week to remove the stitches and be sure everything is healing well. A quick decision was made. Yes, we can extend our stay here. We’ll sort that out later with Apple when we get back to Vara Veree Apartments.

Time Between Consultation and Procedure

We were escorted back to the waiting room. We sat in new plush seats only for a few minutes before it was time to fill in the consent form. Local anesthetic would be needed. We were then directed to wait in the seats facing the cashiers.

A couple of minutes later I was called to pay (they accepted card), accompanied by my nurse in her adorable mauve nurse outfit and mauve nurse hat who translated for me. She seemed to be the nurse ‘assigned’ to me to make sure I was fully cared for.

Another centre of theirs

Another centre of theirs

Pre-Op

Mere moments later, we were directed to sit outside Room 4. The sign above the door was ‘Pre-Operative Counter’. Room 6 to its left was marked ‘Observation Room.’ I had to remove my wedding rings. Lots of people with bandages on their faces were being wheeled out past us.

I was then called in to sit and wait. I was then taken to a room to rinse my mouth with disinfectant, use the toilet and wash my hands. Then it was time to put on a purple gown and green hair cap. I looked like a clown!

Don't need this centre yet!

Don’t need this centre yet!

Surgery Time

I was ushered to the surgery room. I was asked to lay on the bed and two nurses looked after me. They covered my eyes with a gauze, presumably so I couldn’t see what they were doing. They then painted the cyst area with a solution.

The doctor arrived without saying anything to me, injected local anaesthetic, cut the cyst out and chucked it in the bin. He cauterized the blood flow going to the cyst to stop the bleeding (I could smell burning flesh) and then he stitched me up and the nurses covered it with a wound dressing.

Home Time

That was it! I was given antibiotic cream and painkillers. We set the next appointment date in a week’s time. By 3pm we were leaving the hospital. It was about four hours from start to finish.

I have ended up with a little scar and the other hair follicles around the area seem to no longer produce hair – but that might be less to do with their procedures and more to do with the fact that I chose not to use the cream they gave me since it was pretty powerful stuff and I didn’t want it on my skin.

Medical card we were given

Medical card we were given

I can say that this cost a fraction of what I paid both other times I had procedures to try to deal with this. It also was far less stress. I’ve never had such a professional, swift medical experience ever before in my life!

We spent the week in between checking out the sights of Bangkok, but it would have been very easy to fly to perhaps Phuket while we waited for the second appointment, which was super quick – I was in as scheduled and all was fine so stitches came out.

Presto. My first experience with medical tourism – and it won’t be my last! Anyone else out there have a similar experience of professionalism, economy, and efficiency? Or an experience that warns against medical tourism?

KRISTA HAS ALSO SHARED

FURTHER DETAILS

  • Written, formatted and edited by:  Krista Beauvais
  • Photos:  all photos are courtesy of Krista Beauvais
  • Hospital date:  June 2012
  • Hospital name:  Yanhee Hospital
  • Hospital location:  Bangkok

CONTACT KRISTA

  • Email:  krista [at] wodara [dot] org
  • Via the Contact Form
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