Living in Thailand can feel like you’re walking a health and safety tightrope at times. Danger seems to lurk at every turn whether it is the perilous roads, the dangerous seas, and poor adherence to safety regulations, even if they exist at all. There is the potential to contract all manner of diseases from poor food and infected ice. Public hygiene can be lacking. Then there is the potential to fall victim to violent crime including snatch theft, online scams and gun violence.
While the kingdom is hardly unique in this regard, Thailand has its own particular problems. Sometimes people could be forgiven for wanting to stay home and avoid all that potential danger.
Even though we are often told that most accidents occur at home!
Fortunately, the country is blessed with an excellent health care system from the grass roots rural doctors, through its pharmacists up to its swanky 5-star city hospitals. The standard of doctors and nurses and ancillary staff is top notch. This Rooster has learnt from 35 years of widespread experience of all levels of the healthcare service. I know many readers will think I have gone troppo and donned my rose-tinted specs. I am not apologizing for this; I’m writing honestly about what I have seen.
Everyone can point to a bad health or hospital experience and I have had several. After all, in what field of life is everything perfect? Waiting at government hospitals can be a chore.
But these occasional negatives should not discolor an overall impression. In fact, my experience was so positive that when I retired from teaching in 2013, I considered going into a new career promoting medical tourism, especially dentistry. I felt confident that my spiel to a potential tourist would be believed as it would come from the heart and not from the pocketbook.
My Sunday sermon comes after a particularly positive experience this week. A doctor at a good Bangkok hospital had determined that I needed surgery to bypass a blockage in my tear ducts. It looked set to cost me a small fortune as I don’t believe in insurance and have nearly always paid in hard cash for any medical treatment. Her diagnosis proved to be incorrect but she was the first to the sense of a second opinion.
I thus found myself in the private surgery of one of Thailand’s leading eye surgeons who normally practices at Bumrungrad. This man listened at length to my symptoms without interrupting. He said I wouldn’t need surgery and then using high tech gadgetry showed me why. He spent an hour with me despite having a very busy surgery and I was charged 900 baht. I still have some serious problems that need addressing but working together with the doctor I am confident they can be overcome.
When I wai-ed this man at the end of the consultation there were tears in my eyes. Not from the condition but from the sheer respect for a dedicated professional in the field who had treated me as an individual, not a number.
My regular doctor who I see once a year for various tests and checks is another dedicated and likeable individual. He supports Manchester City so he’s been pretty happy in recent years. He too has listened to me and allowed me defer treatment and medication as I tried to work through issues on my own. When consequences were unavoidable, he told me so. His honesty, reassurance and good humor means he is more like a member of my family. I take my kids to see him and pay respects on auspicious occasions.
My earliest brush with doctors was with an Englishman in Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, who specialized in diseases acquired from ladies at Patpong and Soi Cowboy. Dr Dick – real name Dickson – set the scene for years to follow. On an extended trip I made to Rio de Janeiro a friend sent me a picture of Dr Dickson with his new yacht. The inference was that I had paid for the vessel in my myriad visits. The excellent work of Dr Mechai Viravaidya in family planning and HIV/AIDS work followed in the 1980s.
He later gave his name to the Thai word for a prophylactic and opened a chain of restaurants called Cabbages and Condoms. I met him years later at my school where he inspired our pupils after setting up his own ground breaking educational center for young people up country.
In 1987 I spent four days in hospital after my liver nearly burst from complications from amoebic dysentery. While it was poor medical practice at a cheap clinic and my own stupidity that led to my nearly dying, the actions of the staff at St Louis hospital saved my life. Even if they did wheel me to accounts before the ward.
In almost twenty surgeries to remove ingrowing toenails I have been to hospitals everywhere. I once had the grisly and painful operation done at Siriraj Hospital. The doctor was perplexed as to why I was holding my back in agony prior to going under the knife. I’d just dropped by 250 Honda in the car park. The toe healed in a few days but it was ages before 10,000 steps a day on my nail-less toes solved the back problem.
My experiences of going to hospitals with back problems are that it is better to sort yourself out unless there is something specific.
In 2000 during a family trip at Sai Yok waterfall my last words were: “Careful, son, it’s slippery”. After thumping my head against a huge rock I needed eight stitches at a clinic just a few hundred yards away. Just 80 baht. (Two days later I was in Providence, Rhode Island at the US National Scrabble championships with my opponents asking who I was, my head had swollen so much).
OK, so it left a bit of a diagonal scar on my forehead. This was later matched in 2008 after I headbutted the very same son in the middle of the sea off Rayong while riding a banana boat. I then banned such rides on school trips.
On this occasion it was thirteen stitches and a wife on shore who nearly fainted at the amount of blood. “You cried like a little girl” remember the siblings. I wear my V-shaped scars with a certain pride. In both cases the medical attention was prompt and excellent and delivered with that Thai smile and friendly aplomb.
Family members have also had many positive experiences. Mrs R nearly died twice but pulled through. An extraordinary allergic reaction to penicillin left her at death’s door but she somehow pulled through at Chulalongkorn Hospital in 2000. Pneumonia in 2005 showed the brilliant capabilities of the rural health system in Loei. Another close family member received excellent advice and guidance from wonderful staff at Sri Tanya psychiatric hospital in Bangkok. The ill-informed claim that Thailand has no mental health provision. Patent nonsense, though the extent of the service does admittedly need improving.
Childbirth services for all my four children have been great experiences. Two were born at Rajavithi Hospital costing me less than the nippers’ first outfits. Two came into the world at Nawamin 9 where the nursing staff and administration were exceptional, considerate and understanding of our special needs.
I am extremely grateful to Thailand’s wonderful medical community including the huge number of positive experiences in dental care. I’m also appreciative of the world leading Government Pharmaceutical Organization whose development of drugs has been world class. It is absolutely no surprise to me that Thailand has passed the first tests of the coronavirus pandemic with flying colors.
Those curmudgeons that dismiss the nation’s healthcare professionals and are constantly harping on about their deficiencies are, frankly, beneath contempt. As are those who constantly claim that Thailand lags far behind other countries, usually their own.
Whenever I’ve fallen sick in England on holidays I prefer to wait until getting back home to Thailand to see a doctor! No offence to the NHS but somebody needs to fund it rather than just stand outside and clap its doctors and nurses.
Many people in another hectic week of news on Thaivisa needed to avail themselves of this excellent Thai medical care. Not least of all two men who were allegedly shot multiple times by a “tessaban” official on Cha-Am beach on Tuesday.
Evidence of 14 shots were recovered in what appears to be a disagreement over deckchairs and speedboats. The local official was questioned then bailed for 400,000 baht despite being charged with attempted murder.
Kha-Ching (that’s the sound of money not an island off the Phetchaburi coast).
One of Laos’ leading drug lords was not so lucky. A life term was upheld by the criminal court of appeal in Bangkok for Xaysana who was the ringleader in a high profile case of international Ya Ba smuggling in 2015. Rooster happened to be in the area of the court doing some banking on Thursday; there were a huge number of TV crews and reporters as well as many special branch police in black cars in the neighborhood.
Clearly plod still fears the reach of associates of this particular kingpin. With all the kerfuffle at the court I thought some of the arrested protesters including lawyer Anon Nampa were making an appearance. Until someone said “yaa septit” to my bewildered inquiry.
In tourism news – or more precisely the lack of tourism news – the acceptance that 2020 is a write-off and 2021 probably will be too, continued to feature heavily. The tourism minister, the hapless billionaire Pipat, said that five ministries would be working on a plan to welcome visitors come October 1st.
The way things are going the tourists will probably have one ministry each.
Pipat said that PM Prayut had ditched his travel bubble scheme and he was now working on “twin countries”. It appeared strangely similar. No one mentioned the evil twin China. The reality is no one is coming and domestic tourism is the only hope to get a fraction of the usual revenue.
In related news the ministries are working on a tracing app for tourists that the digital economy and society minister described as “necessary”. The forum curmudgeons screamed Big Brother as they always do.
While the app would provide an opportunity for more surveillance, I believe it would be welcomed by most tourists not put them off coming to Thailand. As a deputy TAT rep said at a seminar, potential tourists are going to be thinking safety above all else or they will just stay home and take their chances there.
The rep said many things but came up with “5 R’s” for Thailand’s “rebound”. Rooster put this in the headline resulting in a mass grabbing for the thesauri as the forum faithful mocked the very idea that a Thai could know anything they didn’t.
Pattaya continued to lead the way in both the quirky and the absurd. Mayor Sontaya commissioned a big survey to overhaul the resort’s failing CCTV coverage, more than half of which is broken. A public hearing heard that 80% of Pattaya residents were in favor of a monorail to be built in 2024 that will meet the proposed high-speed train. Clearly, they didn’t survey Thaivisa members many of whom refuse to believe any initiative will work.
They are probably the same people who dismissed the idea of the BTS in Bangkok saying Thais would never get out of their cars.
A gold shop owning couple said they had been ripped off by a gang who pawned silver plated in gold claiming it was the 30,000K per baht weight real thing. Don’t ask me how people of Chinese descent are so easily fooled, I’ve never met any. Later a Laotian was arrested by the side of the road.
A guy called Somchai who stole 200,000 baht in cash and other goodies from a temple in Huay Yai went on a bender to the bars.
A bouncer relieved him of a jewel encrusted knife stolen from the wat then Somchai bought a bargirl a 30,000 baht necklace and had a dolphin of a time. He was arrested by plod flaked out in a barber’s chair next day.
To the credit of the forum and Thaivisa’s Facebook arm, posters sided with Somchai rather than the monks. And to the credit of the monks they only appealed half-heartedly to the bargirls to return the proceeds of Somchai’s largesse.
The saffron clad brigade came in for further victim blaming in another theft in Prachinburi where a thief made off with a staggering 300,000 baht in cash and 10 million in jewels from the abbot’s quarters. Even so the miscreant somehow missed a further 700,000 baht in a couple of forced safes.
The 300K was stashed under a pillow. It appeared the abbot needed it to sleep soundly at night. He’ll have some sleepless night if plod fail to make an arrest, though doubtless the gullible parishioners will front up some more loot to negate the effects of bad karma.
In Bangkok the PM’s minders promised to beef up his security detail after his motorcade was chased and hooted at by a private citizen. A handful of youths were charged with murder after a 15-year-old was shot dead in Nonthaburi.
The BMA announced that Khao San Road was reopening for business with 240 stall holders keen to sell from 9 to 4 and 4 to midnight. One wonders if the vendors have nothing better to do!
Conflicting stories surrounded potential new cases of coronavirus in Thailand. With all the talk of “antibodies”, “quarantine” (both state and alternative), “returnees” and the like, I’m beginning to doubt my false positives from my positives and lose the will to live.
It really is time that Thaivisa had a site where anything Covid-19 related is banned rather like the UK’s Sky News did during Brexit.
In international news the fallout from the A-level results fiasco dominated the news until the GCSE results were announced. Not surprisingly everyone was delighted as teachers – always under pressure to fabricate – had assessed everyone nearly 10% better than in 2019.
In the US the Democrat’s virtual convention took center stage as Republican and decorated war hero Colin Powell criticized the incumbent. Apple became the first public company to be worth 2 trillion dollars. By comparison the UK announced that public debt had risen to more than GDP, two trillion pounds.
In Germany plans were being made to make it mandatory for dog owners to take their pets for two walks totaling an hour a day. Rampant Bayern Munich were set to meet Paris St Germain in the Champions League Final last night.
In Russia one of the main opposition leaders and fierce opponent of Putin, Alexei Navalny fell violently sick on a flight. His supporters say his tea was poisoned at the airport.
Back in Thailand the probe into the “Red Bull Boss” affair trundled on. The scion will now be charged with taking cocaine but prosecutor Nate Naksuk who dropped the most serious charges won’t be sanctioned further. Twenty policemen, many connected to Thong Lo police station where they were colleagues of the long dead Senior Sergeant Wichian Klanprasert, were deemed to have been negligent in their handling of the case. A key witness was offered protection.
The two Burmese guys sentenced to death for the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on Koh Tao have had their sentences changed to life imprisonment. Give it about six years and they will be let out or even pardoned.
By then the statute of limitations on losing face will have run out.
Finally, a probe into an A340 THAI aircraft deal looks like graft.
Funny, but in my day that meant work.