We had done everything we could to avoid going to a doctor, let alone stepping foot inside an actual hospital, but there was nothing else we could do….we had to go. We asked around Chiang Mai and most pharmacies told us to go to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital, also known to locals as the private expensive hospital.
Your probably wondering, OH NO, WHAT’S WRONG?!? We’ll get to that in a minute. We did some research and discovered we knew exactly right were Chiang Mai Ram hospital once, we have walked by it several times as it is across the street from the moat. After putting it off we finally decided to go one morning before hitting the gym.
We walk through the sliding doors and see table lined up with paper signs above each one. Internal medicine here, pediatrician there, etc. I head over to internal medicine, and explain why I am here. Adam and I have been going into every pharmacy we see here in Chiang Mai asking for Mefloquin, the malaria medication we need for our upcoming African safari. All the pharmacies have other malaria medicines, but not mefloquin. We need this specific type because it’s one of the only malaria med’s that will work in all the countries on our safari. Every pharmacy has said we must go hospital, so here we are.
I walk over to internal medicine, and try to explain that I just need a doctor to prescribe me mefloquin and have it filled here at the hospital. Once they google it, they all look at me with huge eyes “YOU HAVE MALARIA??” They assume this because if you have malaria you take the same medicine (but higher dose) to cure it. I try and explain that I don’t have Malaria, but I am going to Africa and need the medicine to prevent it. They finally look like they understood, as we are pointed over to a registration area.
“Passport please.” Crap, once again you need that stupid passport. Lucky for me the nice nurse let me show her my driver’s license as ID. I filled out a quick patient form, said I would pay cash (only option unless insurance) and had my picture taken. I was given a queue number and told to go to the waiting room.
I expected the Dr. waiting room to be like any other one I have been to, which is 15-90 minute wait. WRONG! About 5 minutes later I was in the vitals room. “What are you symptoms?” Once again, explain I am not sick. Got my blood pressure taken, yep still low. I got weighed, pleasantly surprised that I weighed the same I did 10 months ago when we left. Got my temp taken, no fever. Yep I was healthy.
Go back out to the waiting room. Only 3 minutes later and I was in front of the doctor, who was behind his apple computer. I explained where I was going, what pills I wanted and how many. He was surprised to hear that I had taken mefloquine before and didn’t have any side effects, apparently it is not uncommon to have some pretty bad side effects (see picture below). Thankfully, Adam and I have taken mefloquine on/off this entire RTW trip, and have been totally fine. We actually had side effects from the other malaria pills Doxycycline that we got in Cambodia (Mefloquine doesn’t work in Cambodia).
Got my prescription and was told to go to the cashier. I still had no clue what this was going to cost me, no one every mentioned amounts. Adam headed to the ATM and took out 6,000Baht ($185). I had to wait until my # was on the LCD, which was my cue to go up to the cashier to get my bill.
What does it cost to see a doctor at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital:
- Doctor’s fee was 400 Baht ($12)
- 30 Mefloquine pills 2,040 Baht($64) about $2 a pill
- Nursing Service Charge 60Baht ($2)
- Service Charge 60Baht($2)
- Total bill: 2560Baht exactly $80USD
I know for a fact that many of my friends & family cannot see the doctor for $15, many of them have copayments much higher than that. When I had great insurance in the USA I had to pay $15 for 4 mefloquine pills and that was my copay, I know several people whose insurance won’t cover that at all.
If you are wondering where to get malaria pills in Thailand, specifically Mefloquine, you need to head to the hospital. It’s not commonly available because malaria is not present for the most part in Thailand, therefore its a bit harder to come by. Also, note it is sold under the name brand Lariam, and more people will know it as this here.
So to wrap it up, my first overseas doctor appointment went good. I had great service, the hospital was clean, staff was friendly, doctor spoke English (nurse’s not so much), there was more than enough staff running around, wait time was almost non-existent, the “stations” could have been better marked and seemed a little dated, but no real complaints.
If you find yourself in Chiang Mai and in need of a doctor, don’t be afraid to visit “the most expensive” hospital. I don’t think it can really set you back that much. Now let’s knock on wood we don’t end up in anymore hospitals!
Stay healthy everyone, and travel safe.