Not Just for Visas Anymore – Bangkok, Part Five

Bumrungrad Hospital – that “marble-floored mecca of the medical trade” – had 55,000 American patients in 2005, a 30 percent increase over 2004, according to an article in the July 31 issue of Time magazine. Total foreign patients at Bumrungrad in 2005 were 400,000, and Thailand as a whole is expecting one million medical tourists in 2006 (Thai Day, April 20, 2006).

Bumrungrad regularly draws comments from first-time visitors, such as, “It’s the most modern hospital I’ve ever been in my life,” which is what a 60-ish American residing in Bali said after an annual check-up there. A long-time Bangkok resident – a fellow scribe and another American – says it has better facilities than “probably 90 percent of the hospitals in the Midwest.”

This year, my son and I joined the growing stream of US citizens seeking low-priced quality medical care in Thailand when we became patients of Bumrungrad, and I recommend it to anyone in need of medical services. You’ll not find anything better or more reasonably priced — unless, of course, you go to Singapore, India, or Malaysia, where medical entrepreneurship is also competing to fill the demand for the affordable healthcare no longer available in the over-priced, bureaucratic, antiquated medical facilities and systems of the Western world.

For US$1,200, my wife and I had complete physicals and my son had minor outpatient surgery; that’s right, US$1,200 — not ten times that amount. And we arranged all the appointments for ourselves and our son by e-mail, and even had e-mailed discussions with pediatric specialists about the likely course of treatment for our son. Bumrungrad also provided estimates of the surgery and treatments costs, with the actual cost coming in less than the minimum projected.

The hospital is located between Soi 1 and Soi 3 Sukhumvit Road, within walking distance from the Nana Skytrain Station, although a free shuttle service runs between the hospital and the station every 10-15 minutes. Taxi service from hotels in the Sukhumvit Road area should be about 50-100 Thai baht.

The Web site is offered in 14 different languages, including Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Bengali, Arabic, and English. Also, interpreters are on hand to help patients in several languages as they negotiate the hallways and talk with nurses and doctors.

Our own schedule went like this: On a Saturday, we went in to see the pediatrician and pediatric surgeon and scheduled surgery for our son for the next Wednesday. On Monday, we had annual health check-ups for my wife and I; we were finished and done before the morning was old. Wednesday early, we took our son in for pre-op, and while he was in recovery, I picked up the results of our physicals. We were back at the hotel by noon. From diagnosis to surgical treatment for our son took four days. Try that in the US, the UK or Canada, or almost anywhere else in the Western, developed world … and come away with something left of the bank balance?

For old Asia hands, gone are the days when we had to make do with one-doctor missionary clinics and the odd Seventh Day Adventist hospital until home leave brought a chance for quality medical care. The stream of the diseased and the ill flows the other way now and some of the best medical care in the world is only a few hours away. Save trips home for visitin’.

See Bumrungrad’s Web site at for more information on the hospital and to book appointments. This is the final Bangkok article in this series. Coming up in the October 25 issue, the ins and outs of getting a visa done while on ‘home leave.’

Copyright © 2006 Tropical Tramp