Health Care in Thailand : Hospitals in Bangkok, catering to expat community

   Video of Bumrungrad Hospital

Entrance to Bumrungrad Hospital. Very popular with foreigners. The hospital is accessible through soi 1 and soi 3 on Sukhumvit Road.

 

About Hospitals in Bangkok

We have experience with Bumrungrad Hospital(Sukhumvit Road) and Bangkok General Hospital (Petchaburi Road). Both cater to foreign patients and are all set up for that.

The technical equipment and expertise is all there. For instance, it is not difficult to get an MRI of your brain or limbs if necessary, while at least in some countries in Europe, this is not always possible (you are referred to another hospital).
We had some surgery, requiring epidural anesthesia on two occasions. The procedures involved are very well organized, and you will feel in good hands altogether. You may not see the doctor as often as in Europe or the U.S., but the nursing staff will give you ample attention, so much so that it might be difficult to get a good sleep in hospital, because they seem to turn up around the clock to check on your condition.

The price of treatment seems to be well fixed, and not at random. You will be told before treatment how much it will costs, and pay (part) in advance. Small additional costs or reimbursements are handled before discharge. The doctor's fees are not particularly low, although less than what you would pay in Europe and certainly the U.S. What is astonishing are the low costs for nursing care, the room etc. Estimate your room and nursing costs for about 3,000-6,000 baht a day only. So if you are uncertain and uncomfortable leaving the hospital soon, and being confined to your hotel room, just try to stay a little bit longer in the hospital, where you do not have to worry too much, in case some small additional problem occurs.

 

 

Outpatient treatment is also well organized in the well reputed hospitals mentioned above. At least here you will not have to pay in advance. The doctor's fee is in the 700-1000 baht range (and rising). There is an additional fee (somewhere between 100 and 200 baht) for using the facilities and the nursing care. Coming from Europe, we find this a bit unusual, probably just another way for increasing fees.
Some more rates (a few years ago) : a standard chest X-ray about 250 baht, electrocardiogram 500 baht, MRI (including radiologist fee) about 10,000 baht, standard blood examination (including lipid profile) about 3000-4000 baht.

Bumrungrad prides itself on having quite a few food and drinks outlets on its mezzanine floor. You will find an Au Bon Pain outlet (good bagels), a Starbucks, but unfortunately also a McDonald's. We seriously think a hospital should not house a fast food chain like McDonald's. McDonald's likely is the world's biggest retail distributor of trans fatty acids, directly contributing to heart disease. It is always a bit painful to see families with young children 'enjoy' hamburgers and French fries during their visit to Bamrungrad. I do not mind so much the adults having a hamburger, it is their free choice. But certainly, it is irresponsible for a hospital to make this kind of food easily available to youngsters. McDonald's should not want to associate itself with anything related to 'health' either.

 

Samitivej Hospital (part of the Bangkok General Hospital Group) is upmarket and is another health care provider for foreign residents of Thailand. It is located about 3 km into soi 49, Sukhumvit Road.

 

Though having otherwise up-to-date facilities and offering a pleasant environment, Bumrungrad Hospital clearly fails in 'access and transportation'. Getting to the hospital from either Soi 1 or Soi 3 on Sukhumvit Road can be a slow process. Some staff seem to work as traffic police helping people entering our exiting the hospital at Soi 3. However, they do not attempt to provide any service for pedestrians (and there are quite a few visitors to the hospital who actually walk there) wanting to cross the road.

Annoying is also that reaching certain floors of Bumrungrad can be a bit difficult. Possibly in an attempt to entice doctors, patients and visitors to exercise, it looks like the slowest available elevator service has been installed in the hospital. We have been there quite a few times, mostly as a visitor, and it not uncommon to have to wait a full 10 minutes before an elevator arrives, and then to take a ride with the elevator stopping on the way down or up, on every single floor. Not even the simplest computer-guided aide to provide a more convenient service seems to be installed.

A separate building, Bumrungrad International Clinic has been officially opened in August 2008. The building has 22 floors and offers a capacity of 6,000 outpatient visits a day (by 2012). Plans are underway to also upgrade inpatient facilities and expand the number of beds available.

At the new facility a spacious sky lobby is available with separate space for Thai and resident expatriates on the one hand, and international visitors on the other hand. At first this seems like an odd arrangement, but possibly the hospital management wants to keep local and Western patients separate from mostly Middle Eastern (international) patients.

The facilities (on the 10th floor) are available to members of Bumrungrad's new Healthy Living Club. A number of international restaurants also operate in the new building.

We have also experience with Bangkok Christian Hospital on Silom Road. This is a smaller hospital, but the standard doctor's fees are much lower than mentioned above. Recent physicians' fees seem to be 400 baht for a first visit and 300 baht for follow-up visits. Like all other hospitals they will charge you an additional 80-120 baht or so to use the facility (under 'other charges') So if you have minor ailments, like a persistent cold, stomach upset, skin rash etc. this much cheaper facility can be recommended. A very good thing about Bangkok Christian Hospital is also that the doctors do not shy away from using generic drugs. They usually costs only a fraction (sometimes as little as 10%) of the 'real' drugs, and in our opinion (and international reviews), are as effective. Major savings here!

Begin 2009 Bangkok Christian Hospital opened a new wing, a completely new building with close to 20 floors. Some of the outpatient clinics have moved there already. The place looks brand new and clean, is functional and very spacious. However, it does not look fancy like some of the other hospitals in Bangkok. A visit at the time with a specialist costs 600 baht (+ 100 baht for services). So maybe prices have gone up substantially, but we are not sure, since we had a rather prolonged extensive visit with this physician.

There is an outlet of Au Bon Pain on the ground floor of the new building, so you enjoy a decent snack, after or before your visit to the doctor. At Bangkok Christian Hospital we usually manage to get tests done as such without seeing a physician, although we would not recommend this option if you do not know how to interpret the results yourself. Of course, if all results are within normal range, maybe a physician evaluation is not quite necessary. When compared to other hospitals, the prices at Bangkok Christian are competitive.

BNH Hospital is part of the Bangkok Hospital Group. It is located in Convent road. Facilities do not closely look as new or flashy as the facilities at Bumrungrad Hospital or Bangkok General Hospital. Prices for outpatient services though seem to be at similar levels. Since it is affiliated with Bangkok General, its medical facilities more likely than not are quite up-to-date, but we never were an inpatient or had intensive investigations there. We visited mid-2009, and in two outpatient visits to the dermatology clinic, we spent as much during two years of follow-up for the same condition at Bangkok Christian Hospital (so be warned about expenses). It was in the midst of the economic crisis, and also at the initial peak of the H1N1 flu pandemic. At the time of our first visit, we seemed to be the only visitor to the skin clinic, and the hospital appeared to be hardly operating, with very few patients around the outpatient area. Maybe the hospital relies a lot on foreign visitors, and there is a drop of those lately.

What is good about this smaller hospital is that it is not too far from the Silom BTS station and Silom subway station. Bumrungrad Hospital (although one could walk from Nana or Phloenchit BTS skytrain station) and certainly Bangkok General Hospital kind of necessitate a taxi ride.

One other hospital (we have no personal experience here) often used by foreigners and in the upper price range bracket is Samitivej Hospital, located in Sukhumvit Soi 49.

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BNH Hospital (formerly knows as Bangkok Nursing Home) is part of the Bangkok General Hospital Group. It is located in Convent Road (connecting road between Silom Road and Sathorn Road, Bangkok)