One of the biggest concerns for travelers abroad is having access to good healthcare. Yesterday, I had the chance to try a Thai medical clinic.
For the last few days, I’ve been fighting a rash. So finally, yesterday, I decided to go see a doctor to make sure it was nothing serious. I got on the scooter and made my way there.
When I arrived at the clinic, I was greeted with many smiles. I think most of the people in the room were Burmese and, since they do not see a lot of white people around here, they all stared at me. I locked eyes with the receptionist nurse and she welcomed me with a big smile and a “Sawadee Ka!” (Hello!). I returned the welcome with a waî (raised prayer hands). To my relief, she spoke a little English. She took my information and told me to sit and wait.
With me were another 12 other people or so. Based on previous experiences in Canada, I figured it would be a while before I could see a doctor. The TV was blaring a cheesy Japanese movie with Thai subtitles. I couldn’t help but watch with the others who were waiting. It was terrible!
My turn came to see the nurse for assessment. She too spoke a little English so I was not fully in the dark. We did all my vital stats and confirmed there were no major issues. Their regular blood pressure cuff was too small for me (although that’s pretty normal for me). Then came my height and weight… First, the height. Their scale was too short; they could not measure me. So they maxed out the height and another nurse came with a ruler and chair to get my full height. All of a sudden, I was a circus clown; the entire waiting room was giggling!
Next came my weight. Before I even stood on the scale, I knew this would be funny! And I was right: the whole room got up from their seats and came to look! The scale did a full circle (250 lbs) and continued going for another 15 lbs. The whole room was in amazement! They were not laughing; they were blown away. Considering the average Thai or Burmese person is about 5’5” and 120 lbs, this was out of the ordinary for them. Even my nurse giggled! With the intake session complete, I then sat down again and waited for the doctor.
Forty-five minutes later, I was called into the doctor’s office. He was a 45-year-old man who spoke some English. I showed him my rash and he knew immediately what it was. Pointing to a poster on the wall, he explained that I had heat rash. Nothing unusual, really. Most foreigners who come here are not used to the humidity and their skin has a hard time adjusting. He gave me directions on how to get rid of it, wrote me a prescription and sent me away. All in all, I was in his office for about 15 minutes. The nurse filled the prescription on the spot, and I was ready to go home.
I figured the visit would cost me at least $100 CAD, but no… It was a mere $24.75 CAD! Within two hours, I had seen a doctor, received my medication and walked out for less than $25! And that’s the cost for a foreigner. Local Thai people pay even less. I saw other patients leaving the clinic with a bill for 20THB ($0.75 CAD). Could medical care in a third-world country be better than Canada? I wonder sometimes.
I was amazed by how wonderful and simple the whole experience was. Why is it not be like this in Canada? I have waited in an emergency room in Canada for over 18 hours and not even seen a doctor. Here, in remote Thailand, I was in and out in less than two hours.
Don’t get me wrong: Canadian healthcare is great…. Until you actually need to use it. Is it a wonder then that an increasing number of people are leaving the country for medical treatment? Based on my visit today, Canada could learn a lot from Thailand when it comes to healthcare accessibility.