Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bangkok: Bumrungrad Private Hospital

A lot of men come to Bangkok to have pretty women rub parts of their body in exchange for money. I’m no exception. However, my lady was performing an ultrasound of my stomach, as part of a comprehensive medical check-up at the Bumrungard Private Hospital. The examinations were Sally’s idea, inspired by a conversation with Michael Audain last year in Bangkok. Michael has been coming to Thailand for many years, and mentioned over dinner that some of the city’s private hospitals provide excellent medical treatment. They also offer full preventative check-ups, similar to what one might get at the Mayo Clinic, but for a fraction of the price. While some friends questioned whether we really wanted to know if we were sick while on a world trip, we thought it was better to know sooner, rather than later.

So we tried to book appointments on line with the hospital while in Malaysia. When we didn’t hear back we decided that perhaps we should just give it a pass. However, while checking my email Sunday Morning, I found a message confirming an appointment at the hospital with a prescribed doctor at 10:40 that morning. Fortunately, neither of us had eaten or drunk anything for the previous 8 hours, as instructed, so at 10:25 Ross McClellan, our Bangkok host dropped us off at the very fancy porte-cochere, with wishes for good luck.

It was an amazing experience, especially if you have spent any time in a Canadian Hospital. This hospital is a major complex in the centre of the city. You can check it out at www. The reception area looked like a beautiful hotel, and the nurses all looked like they had been dressed up for roles as nurses in a Hollywood movie. They agreed to see Sally at the same time as my appointment. We filled in the forms selecting the tests we wanted, and then headed over to the cashier. I had the male comprehensive package, and so did Sally, with a couple of obvious exceptions. The process included vital signs and physical examinations, followed by laboratory tests to determine cholesterol levels, kidney and liver function, tumour markers, etc. We then had stool and urine examinations, chest x-rays, EKG and exercise stress test Echocardiograms. This was followed by a full stomach ultrasound, and eye examination. We were then given coupons for lunch.

The facilities were phenomenal. All the equipment seemed so much more modern than what I am used to. The washrooms had Mitsubishi hand dryers that were a joy to behold. The whole process took just over 2 hour and cost 13,000 baht ($450 CDN) each.

The next day, we returned for our results. We were handed elaborate coloured binders with the results of every test, and copies of our EKG’s etc. I have never received anything like this before. We then went in and spoke with the doctor who went over each page. As for the results, only one of us will die prematurely. No, just joking. We’re both fine. But the tests revealed that this trip is taking its toll on our bodies. All the rich foods and wines have affected our weight and cholesterol levels, so there will have to be a few changes over the next 5 months!

I have dwelt on this experience since I think it’s a good idea for all of us to consider regular check-ups. I have tried in the past to do so each year on my birthday. It’s a gift to myself, and I never forget the date. But it’s unfortunate that we can’t arrange the level of comprehensive tests that we had in Bangkok under our public system. I understand there are private centres in Vancouver that perform similar programs, albeit at a much higher cost.

So for what it’s worth, here’s our advice. Arrange a holiday in Thailand, and check into the Bumrungrad Hospital for a few hours. The savings on the examination will pay for a large portion of your trip. You will not regret it. While there, you can also take advantage of the special program for golfers advertised throughout the hospital. Doctor Golf will examine you for the 6 most common injuries and prepare a program for recovery.

If that’s not feasible, then at least check out the private programs available in Vancouver. We think nothing of taking our cars in for their check-ups every 6 months, so why not do the same for ourselves. Now, if you do come to Thailand, to learn more about the other body rubs available, (especially the ones that come with Happy Endings), you’ll have to speak tosomeone else!

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