Sunday 7 October 2007

Thai hospitals...

I visited a local public hospital today to visit J's aunt who has a horrific condition...she had a growth on her voice box a few years ago and the only treatment suggested was complete removal of her voice box. She hasn't been able to speak (only in whispers) since. She has never had problems with it until last week the hole in her throat (for breathing) became infected and consequently she can no longer eat or drink and has difficulty breathing through the pipe in her neck. The doctors say they can't do anything, just try to clear the infection but they say she may never eat again and she'll have to have a permanent IV drip in her arm. I just find this absolutely devastating and can't help but wonder if she was in a more developed country what alternatives she would have.

The difference between Thai hospitals and Australian hospitals is incredible. Aussie hospitals (in my experience) are sterile and generally pretty quiet. Thai public hospitals (in my experience) are one step up from filthy, overcrowded and noisy. They have long rooms of 20 or so beds spaced less than half a metre apart with a bathroom down one end. There were also beds end to end lining the balcony both up and down stairs. The only privacy available is a plastic shower curtain that wraps around the bed but that is only used if the person is unable to go to the toilet. There were about 60 people - patients, visitors and nurses - filling this room. The air is stagnant with way too few fans oscillating. The food I saw delivered today was boiled cabbage with a piece of carrot, some nasty looking meaty substance and exceptions, everyone eats the same. The beds are steel frames with thin slats of plywood screwed on and a 2 inch mattress on top.

The thing that stands out the most to me though is that every single person had at least one visitor. Lots of people were coming and going but there is always one person to stay with the patient 24/7. I also experienced this when I was a volunteer after the tsunami. We had a rotating "roster" of people whose job it was to be a hospital companion. If no one was available the Thais became extremely distressed until someone was found to be a visitor. It is quite go into any western hospital and you're only allowed in at certain visiting hours and rooms are considered full if there are 4 people in them. They can be very lonely places for the elderly or long term patients. Just compare that to a Thai hospital where you're not even alone to go to the toilet!

The compassion, benevolence and friendliness most Thais display are really is such a major reason why I love living in Thailand. The selfishness in my own home land often saddened me and living here has really shown me that selfishness is one of the worst qualities a person can hold on to.

6 commentaramas:

Jenny Beattie said...

Oh Mel, that post shames me. My experience of Thai hospitals is so different: but I'm not naive enough to think that that's what all Thai hospitals are like. Of course Husband's firm pays for us to have insurance, so the hospitals we see in Bangkok are aimed at expats and rich Thais and are therefore like hotels.

I'm so sorry J's aunt is so unwell, and wish you all the very best.

Mel said...

Thanks jj. The hospitals in BKK are amazing! Really world class. The difference between public vs private and big city vs village is so huge. I've been in a few public hospitals here and they were all how I described...there is a private hospital here too so that would be my option if (touch wood) I ever have something go wrong.

thailandchani said...

Your point about selfishness is totally relevant. When I was there, I found that I was willing to put up with many inconveniences simply because people were so considerate and caring.

A little of that goes a long way. I wish "the west" had a better handle on that very basic fact.



Carol said...

I'm so sorry to hear about J's aunt....fingers crossed that they will be able to do something about the infection!!

Like JJ my only experience of Thai hospitals are of the private ones.

I agree with you on the selfish front....I think that there can be nothing worse than being just left on your own to languish.

C x

Catherine said...

I'm here via Thailand Chani's new forum - and I'm glad to meet you! I lived in India for a short while, and I resonate with some of what you describe. I'm looking forward to reading more!

Julie Pippert said...

What an interesting difference to observe and contemplate. I wonder how much of the environment dictates the behavior (which is first, chicken or egg?). The formal, cold, sterile seems to defeat warmth and friendliness, which might be more crucial to better recovery than cleaner than clean.

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