BANGKOK: Bumrungrad Hospital
Nov 15, 2004
David Rich 1400 Words
BANGKOK: B U M R U N G R A D H O S P I T A L
What Bum-run-grad does and doesn't mean: It doesn't mean the graduate of a bad run; that is, unless you're trying to escape a run of bad health. It does means one of the most modern hospitals on the planet, styled as a Five Star Hotel.
You suspect Bangkok's Bumrungrad Hospital necessarily operates out of a rice paddy? Wrong. It's one of the top hospitals in the world, with a standard of care substantially above that of most European and American hospitals. It enjoys International accreditation by the U.S.-based Joint Commission on International Accreditation.
The simplest private room costs $50 a night and boasts a contemporary couch and coffee table, hotel-like toiletries in the bathroom, Internet plug-in for your laptop plus cable TV with CNN, BBC and other English-language stations. The in-house restaurants include a fancy Japanese, succulent Thai, scrumptious-looking Italian and French Au Bon Pain, or you can order a Big Mac at McDonalds. In any event you'll be served, except for the last choice, with the best food available in any hospital anywhere. No wonder Americans and Europeans are the hospital's happiest and most loyal customers and many patients come from the wealthy sheikdoms of the Middle East.
Upon my arrival Bumrungrad's entrance was busy with valets parking cars that were pulling up to its stainless steel columns. I walked gingerly into the two-story vaulted reception area, a Starbucks in the corner, and was greeted by a smiling Thai woman.
She wai-ed (bowed with hands folded) and asked, "Do you have an appointment today? I am here to help you." Very unhospital-like. But here in the Land of Smiles it's the usual inimitable Thai hospitality and in perfect English.
I blinked. This was a hospital? It was like none I'd ever seen. I'd heard about Bumrungrad but harboring a First World bias I had to see it to believe it. Every year over 300,000 tourists from 154 countries fix up their medical needs at Bumrungrad Hospital, a luxurious experience where a private room, board, doctors, tests and meds will cost five or ten percent of those terrible hospital bills in the US and without European queues. You couldn't sign a hospital admittance form in the States for the price of a room in Bumrungrad. You could pay for your flight to Bangkok and back from anywhere, plus all Bumrungrad expenses, for a fraction of serious medical treatment costs in the States or to avoid the waiting lines in Europe.
But the very best part was the attitude and the caring, as if I were a human being instead of an insurance statistic. When was the last time a hospital seemingly cared about anything other than your insurance coverage? It could be that how a hospital, physician or nurse makes you feel has a lot to do with your ultimate health. If there's any effect whatsoever then Bumrungrad is the world's best, bar none.
My lovely greeter led the way to the proper floor where she handed me over to a pair of equally congenial Thais for initial registration. In minutes I was given to a smiling Thai girl who accompanied me to my initial examination for a routine physical, which was anything but the routine I'd experienced in American hospitals for umpteen years. Here a friendly Thai took me every step of the way from blood and other tests through EKG, X-ray and advanced ultra-sound for an upper GI analysis. Less than two hours after I'd walked into the lobby I was meeting with my primary physician to review the results of a fifteen page computer print out and lab analysis, handsomely bound for perusal at my leisure. Total cost, including a teeth cleaning, $125. It was hard to believe Bumrungrad was under American management.
Patients receive a cost estimate before undergoing any procedure and I've never had it nudged upwards. Other hospitals wouldn't touch an estimate with a rolled up thousand dollar bill. And Bumrungrad only gets better upon acquaintance with its thirty three state-of-the art clinics with cutting edge medical procedures and equipment. Several specialized centers caught my eye including the Wellness Center dedicated to strengthening the immune system and countering the effects of menopause and andropause. The Center also supervises safe weight loss, helps the patient regain lean muscle mass with flexibility and aerobic capacity. Practically anyone could benefit from a visit to the Wellness Center.
Another spiffy Center treats Sleep Disorders, an increasingly serious syndrome resulting from hectic First World schedules and increasingly stressful work environments. Sleep deprivation contributes to hypertension, heart disease and depression. Because over eight hours sleep a night, on average, is necessary to protect the immune system for the production of defensive antibodies, a good night's sleep helps prevent the onset of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. I'd never heard how vitally important sleep was but felt vindicated in my propensity for the occasional nap. Of course naps are medically frowned on because they may interfere with necessary REM sleep. Thus the Center's advises patients to reserve their bed for sleep and sex. After all, this is Thailand.
The Sleep Center uses high-tech treatments, assessing sleep patterns in a computerized lab and applying therapies including conventional and laser surgery, radio frequency and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). Special packages are available for those sleepless in Seattle, or anywhere else.
Bumrungrad offers much more including an extremely practical Digestive Disease Center which uses advanced endoscopy from high resolution ultra-sound to the "pill-cam" or Capsule Endoscopy. Mayo Clinic rates the 'pill-cam' more effective than a CT scan or barium enema. You swallow a pill with a camera inside and it records your entire alimentary system in living color, sort of like the prophetic movie, Fantastic Voyage. The absence of Rachel Welsh in your 'pill-cam' is more than compensated by foregoing the often painful and undignified colonoscopy. But at Bumrungrad colonoscopies are performed under general anesthetic resulting in no pain or knowing indignity, and recorded on a CD-DVD for close analysis. I suggest putting your take-home copy in a safe place not accidentally discoverable by inquisitive children.
So next time you're feeling peckish, queasy or due for your annual physical, take a break and fly to Bangkok. Bumrungrad's world-magnet hospital will graduate you from a bad run into the pink of health, Five Star Hotel style and inexpensively.
When You Go: You can fly to Bangkok for a few dollars or euros from Europe or the United States. Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific Airlines offers thirty day roundtrip excursions from the U.S. to anywhere it flies, including Bangkok, for $999. Similar or cheaper fares are available from Europe, especially through London Bucket Shops. Plug-in 'Bangkok Airfare' on your favorite search engine and you'll be overwhelmed with inexpensive fares.
For more information on Bumrungrad Hospital see their multi-lingual interactive website, www.Bumrungrad.com
Bumrungrad's range of treatment Clinics include aviation medicine, allergies, breast screening, children's center, dental, diabetes, dialysis, early intervention, endoscopes, eye laser refraction, eye and ENT, heart, cancer, surgical, fertility, neurology, orthopaedic, pathology, plastic surgery, physiotherapy, psychiatry, pulmonary physiology, radiology, rehab, skin, skin laser, stroke, urology and a women's center. Special facilities include two cardiac catheterization labs, 19 operating theaters, MRI, CT and Lithotripsy, Nuclear medicine, PACS radiology, 2 cardiac operating theaters, interventional radiology, neonatal critical care transport, radiation therapy (linear accelerator) and heliport in a12-story facility of a million square feet. International patients are provided with interpreters when needed, concierge service, embassy assistance, VIP airport transfers, international insurance coordination and medical coordinators. Bed capacity is 554 inpatients including 26 adult intensive care, 14 cardiac care, nine pediatric intensive care, five level III neonatal intensive care with 57 deluxe rooms, 21 VIP suites and two Royal Suites. Fully-serviced two-room and studio apartments (74) are connected to the hospital.
Top level Blue Cross health insurance in Thailand costs about $1000 a year, less than $100 a month, covering most medical costs with little deductible. But at Bumrungrad Hospital any First-Worlder can afford world-class health care for practically pocket change.
If you actually got this far you know there are photos posted that have NOTHING to do with Bumrungrad Hospital: to wit, a swimming cobra, Danish Girls with Fat Python, a 39' steel cutter I spent a month working and sailing on in Malaysia and a bad actor in Singapore.