Healthcare and medical care
The standard of treatment in Thailand has improved significantly over the last 20 years, with several hospitals on par with international standard. Especially in Bangkok, the hospitals are quite good by western standards, and the more expensive hospitals have a very good reputation. The foreign and Thai doctors who work at the hospitals have been trained either in Europe or the United States.
The availability of healthcare services varies across Thailand. The Chiang Mai, Samui and Pattaya regions also offer comprehensive first aid services as well as routine and long-term treatment.
Most of the doctors in tourist areas speak English. Doctors are usually available quickly, and the price level is reasonable from a Finnish perspective. The prices vary, however, and you should check them on site. Note that there will usually be a separate charge for each examination, procedure or medicine. Most doctors are specialised in a specific field. A general practitioner is not necessarily easy to find. Only basic healthcare is available outside the tourist areas.
In Bangkok, high-quality private hospitals include, for example, the Samitivej Hospital, Bangkok Hospital Medical Center (BMC) and Bumrungrad International Hospital. In the Pattaya region, high-quality healthcare services are available at the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya and the Pattaya Memorial Hospital, for example. In Chiang Mai, at least the Chiangmai Ram hospital offers high-quality treatment. In Phuket, at least the Bangkok Hospital Phuket and the Phuket Provincial Hospital provide treatment of an international standard. In general, the Bangkok Hospital chain has a high standard of quality, and its hospitals are available across the country (alongside Pattaya and Phuket, they can be found in Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Rayong, for example).
In larger urban areas, the doctors working at the hospitals commonly treat patients at small private clinics in the evenings. Receiving treatment is usually quick and effortless at these clinics. The price is also usually lower than in a large private hospital.
Travellers to Thailand should definitively purchase comprehensive travel insurance. In case of illness, the trip home will be expensive and difficult to arrange without private travel insurance. Treatment is usually not started before the insurance company issues a confirmation or an advance payment is made. The hospitals often require payment in cash. Always take your insurance documents (insurance card) with you on the trip.
It should be noted that ambulance services are fairly primitive in Thailand. The larger hospitals sometimes have ambulances where emergency treatment can be started immediately. However, first response treatment is usually provided by volunteer organisations. Due to the frequent traffic jams, ambulances are rare, especially in Bangkok. Motorists and motorcyclists do not always give way to an ambulance, slowing down the arrival of the ambulance.
If you suspect that your prevailing medical condition may require emergency treatment while staying in Thailand, it is recommended that you stay near one of the hospitals. This will ensure that you receive timely treatment when necessary.
If you are health insured in Finland, and have received treatment in some other country than an EU or EEA country or Switzerland on account of a sudden illness, worsening of a chronic condition, pregnancy or childbirth, you can apply for reimbursement from Kela retrospectively. You are entitled for the same reimbursement that you would have received if you had been treated in the private healthcare system in Finland. Please note that the reimbursement usually covers only a small part of the costs of the treatment. Thus, taking out a comprehensive travel insurance is recommended.
The standard of the pharmacies varies. Hospitals usually have pharmacies connected to them, and it is a good idea to purchase your medicines there when seeing a doctor. The selection of medicines varies according to the standard of the hospital. The pharmacies commonly offer expensive original products and less expensive generic substitutes. In remote areas, the availability of medicines is less certain.
Please note that doctors in Thailand may prescribe more medicine for treating an illness than their colleagues in Finland would. Unnecessary medicine may be prescribed even for minor discomfort. If you receive a large amount of medicines or you suspect that medication might not be required for your ailment, you should maintain a critical attitude towards the medication. If necessary, also get a second opinion.
When bringing medicines into or out of Thailand, you should check the list of prohibited medicinal substances available, for example, on the website of the Royal Thai Embassy, Helsinki, Finland. You should take with you a medical prescription in English of any medicines subject to authorisation. Whether a medicine is subject to authorisation, should be checked with the health authorities of Thailand and, when required, written permission should be requested in advance from the Thai authorities.