Mobi’s Medical Mayhem
Yesterday, I rose before dawn and drove to Bangkok with Noo to Rajawithi government hospital, just off Victory Monument, in Bangkok. At that the hour of the morning, the journey didn’t take long, and I turned into the hospital grounds just after 7 a.m., after a 90 minute journey from Pattaya.
Unfortunately, after driving round and round the extensive hospital grounds for ages, and being unceremoniously kicked out of every parking spot that we tried to park in, we were eventually directed to the multi storey car park, which is notable for its lack of signage – maybe to deter all, but the most determined of trying to park there.
When we first embarked on our hospital adventure, at around 7.30 in the morning, the hospital was already jam packed with hundreds, if not thousands of patients, of all ages, walks of life, modes of dress and physical appearance.
It really was a ‘hotchpotch’ of Thai humanity – all desperate to get their aches pains and ailments seen to. There were dozens of wheel chair patients and even an extraordinary large number of bed-ridden patients, being wheeled around the outpatients department by friends and relatives on large mobile-beds.
I have to say that although we were generally treated with politeness consideration and even kindness, the hospital itself also seems to work on the same principal as the car park; i.e. make things as difficult as possible for patients to fight their way through the bureaucracy so that all, except the seriously sick will give up and go home.
OK, this is a slight exaggeration, but considering that I had a bright Thai speaker with me who is used to dealing with Thai bureaucracy, I did find that it was extraordinarily complicated to try and find our way around the massive hospital and to follow all the various steps that were necessary before I could became enrolled, medically tested, and ‘approved’ to see a doctor.
We would instructed to go to ‘such and such’ a place, but and no one seemed to know the way, (including staff) there was no visible signage, and we had to ask several times before we finally found the place we were looking for. And so on, ad infinitem, to the next one and then the next one…
I was presented with bills to pay, prior to having the tests, but when I went to pay them, I was told to see the Doc first and then pay the bill. When I tried to see the Doc, I was told, ‘No, you must pay the bill first!’ All very strange…When Noo complained to one of the senior nurses at the ECG station about being given the ‘run around’, she looked at us with a ‘knowing smile’ on her face and made no comment.
My friend had warned me that it may take several visits before I could see a specialist, but in spite of all the hassles, I think I actually lucked out.
At one of the form filling desks, I was asked by the nurse who checked my application form for a ‘doctor’s referral’ letter. I didn’t have one, but produced my recent doctor’s report from Bumrungrad and this was accepted as my referral letter and she scheduled me to see a heart specialist, rather than having to be first examined by a GP, who would then refer me to the specialist, not necessarily on the same day.
I know for sure that I was indeed lucky, as about two hours later, at yet another ‘vetting station’ the woman there was surprised that I was being scheduled to see the specialist as I hadn’t got a proper ‘referral’. She read enough English to understand that the report I was waiving around wasn’t a referral letter, but she was very nice and said, ‘never mind, I’ll approve you, anyway’….
I was told that I must have an ECG and a chest x-ray – although God knows why the x-ray was needed because nobody looked at it – including the doc.
Actually, having the x-ray was a bit of a revelation, as apart from the fact that we sat there like lemons for an hour, (as we weren’t told that I had to place the forms in a basket), I was shocked to find there was a line of patients, INSIDE the x-ray room, along with two members of staff, as the x-rays were being taken.
I have never seen this anywhere else in the world. What about the dangers to patients and staff of radiation ???
Finally, at around noon, grasping a clutch of forms and test results about an an inch thick, I was in the line to see the doc. Knowing Thailand, I fully expected to be told to come back after lunch, but yet again my luck was in, and within ten minutes I was in the consulting room with the doc.
Whenever I have doctor’s consultations in Thailand , I invariably speak Thai to them, which is normally a signal for them to explain everything to me in Thai. Sometimes this doesn’t work very well, as although my basic knowledge of Thai is not too bad, as soon as the doctor strays into the area of complex medical terms, I can get completely lost.
Anyway, this time round the doctor addressed me in English so I resolved to speak only English to him, but this also turned out to be a bit of mistake as we had a very halting and difficult conversation in English and it soon became clear that his English was worse than my Thai. I doubt he had spoken more than a word or two in years, so he didn’t exactly impart too much information to me.
It was only when Noo asked him in Thai if I needed to have an operation, and he answered her in Thai, that I started to understand what he was thinking.
He had looked at my two previous echocardiogram results and, as had been predicted, he said that he would need to order a new echocardiogram done, following which, he would evaluate my condition and decide if my valve needed replacing. He refused to commit himself until I had the new test, but he did tell Noo, in Thai, that he would discuss my case with his boss, and they would determine how much to charge me for the operation. I think I can construe from that comment that an op is inevitable, sooner or later.
He told me that I would have to wait about two weeks to have to echocardiogram, after which he would further evaluate my case.
So off to the heart department, to see about having my echocardiogram. After another hour of waiting around, I was called to the nursing station and I actually thought they were going to do the test there and then.
They gave me yet another form, told me I had to pay the fee, and she showed me the date of the test on the form. I read ‘15th’, (yesterday’s date), and immediately assumed they were going do the test straight away, but she soon put me right – the date was 15th March , not 15th Feb! The doc’s estimate of 2 weeks had turned out to be 4 weeks.
In case you are wondering, Noo wasn’t allowed into the heart unit – patients only – so I was on my own, presumably on the principle that of you have no one to take care of you , the additional stress may cause you to have a heart attack and save them the bother of testing you…
I actually doubt whether this huge government hospital, which provides free healthcare for a majority of its patients, is that far removed from the sort of treatment and bureaucracy I would encounter in a National health hospital in the UK, so I mustn’t be too critical.
Sure enough, I wouldn’t have to wait in a line inside an x-ray room, and I wouldn’t be paying fees to cashiers every time I needed a medical test, but that apart, I imagine the never ending lines of of waiting patients and the waiting around for hours on end, the baffling bureaucracy and form filling, and the need to make multiple hospital visits to get the results of tests and see specialists is all pretty similar. At least it used to be, and I doubt it has changed much through the years.
It is the price you pay for universal healthcare, which is one of the reasons our well-off Republican friends from across the pond, are fighting ‘Obamacare’ tooth and nail. They have seen how it works, and don’t very much like the idea very much.
Mobi’s Motoring mishaps
I wrote in my blog recently that I had reluctantly sent my beloved BMW to Bangkok to put it up for sale and that was the last I ever expected to see of it.
But, alas! it wasn’t to be.
The guy who has been trying to sell it, called to advise me that he was having a few problems due to a shoddy paint job that had been carried out on the driver’s door. He said the paint had run and dried and potential customers were being put off – not knowing what was ‘going on’ underneath.
This news didn’t surprise me as the paint work had been done by a German owned paint shop, which has since closed. I was aware of their bad workmanship as some other work they had done for me had started peeling after a few months and I had to have it re-done.
To cut a long story short, it would have taken a week and a substantial sum to get the paintwork re-done in Bangkok, so I arranged for the car to be brought back to Pattaya, where I put it in a little paint shop I have discovered that does excellent, cheap work. They told me it would take two days to fix.
When I went to collect the car, I saw they still had the front door apart and it transpired that they had ‘broken something’ in the lock mechanism and were still trying to fix it. Two days later, the car was finally delivered back to my house. I checked the door lock. The remote worked fine but the sensor, which will open or lock the doors automatically, when you have the key ‘fob’ in your pocket and touch the door handle, failed to work. I showed them how it was supposed to work on the passenger side and they took the car away again to take another look.
Bad move; the next day, they returned it to me again and advised that they had been unable to fix it and that I should take for repair at BMW, promising to pay the bill. After they left, I discovered that not only did the lock sensor mechanism on the driver’s door fail to operate, but now, the passenger door was also f..cked!.
Anyway, the paintwork was now fine, and I decided to send the car back to Bangkok where they will have the doors looked at by the dealer there. I am still awaiting their advice on this, but one way or another, there seems little chance of getting this car sold in the near future!!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, one of my good friends has lent me his 8 year- old Honda CRV while he is out of the country and I used this car yesterday to drive to Bangkok. On the way out, I put about 700 Baht worth of fuel in the car which, added to what was already in the car, gave me about three quarters of a tank of petrol. Plenty – or so I thought – for the round trip to Bangkok.
The car goes beautifully and I was quite impressed, especially considering its age – but my God, does it drink petrol!
I was half way back home when the empty fuel light went on, showing that I was almost out of fuel. Not to worry, I thought, I would stop at the motorway service station and fill up.
It is inconceivable to me that in the west there would be any motorway service stations that wouldn’t stock all publicly used types and grades of fuel, but in Thailand – this is not the case.
The Honda CRV runs on petrol, not gasohol, and to my dismay, both of the gas stations in the service area of the motorway did not stock petrol – they only sold gasohol and diesel, and bio-diesel; notwithstanding the fact that the country is still teeming with cars over 8 years old which only run on pure petrol, (‘gasoline’ to my Yank readers).
Not to worry, I thought to myself, I still had a bit left in the tank – it should be enough to get me to that huge, brand spanking new gas station, which was further down the road, about 30 kms outside Pattaya. Well the tank gauge soon showed ‘empty’ and I drove for about 20kms on a ‘whim and a prayer’ before finally pulling into this new service station, breathing a huge sigh of relief that I had finally made it. Guess what? No petrol was sold there either – again, only gasohol and diesel!
We were stranded – it was all I needed after a stressful day at hospital. I called a friend and he advised that there was no way I could put gasohol in the CRV, but he did save the day by suggesting that I get off the main road and see if I could find one of those little shops that sold small bottles of ‘benzine’, (Thai word for petrol), to motorcyclists.
We did just that, and after a couple of abortive stops, finally tracked down a ramshackle establishment that stocked rusty tanks full of petrol and I bought 200 Bahts’ worth, which thankfully got me home.
To be fair, my friend had warned me that not all gas stations stock petrol, but never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that I wouldn’t be able to buy petrol on a major, very busy stretch of trunk road running from Bangkok to Pattaya.
I don’t think I’d be too keen to drive his CRV up-country, especially the way it drinks fuel – it would be so easy to run out and not find a suitable gas station to fill up.
I think I’ll stick to diesel powered vehicles. I reckon my 2 litre BMW is about twice as fuel efficient as the 2 litre CRV, although I suppose the later models are a bit easier on fuel.
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot!…