When you have no medical insurance …
Another award for Bandara Samui
Mandarin Oriental adds Wellness Package
Intelligent Spas still sees promise for spa industry in Asia Pacific
Double honors for Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Two new promotions from Bandara
12th annual World Gourmet Festival in Bangkok
Expect the unexpected at elephant polo competition
Princess to preside over charity dinner
‘Thailand’s place in Asia is unique’

When you have no medical insurance …

Dr Michael Moreton graduated from the Liverpool Medical School and trained as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Montreal, Canada. He is the International Medical Co-ordinator at Bangkok Hospital, Bangkok. Moreton@bgh.co.th

British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand travelers are more casual about purchasing travel type of insurance than are Americans or Europeans.

Their government health plans, with all their faults, are always there for them, and many people rarely think about private health insurance. This is spite of the fact their coverage is of no help when you are out of the country.

The concept of the “uninsured patient” is not part of the British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand experience. Neither is the phenomenon of patients being turned away from hospitals if they have no insurance or cannot document their coverage.

But if you are taken ill or injured in a foreign country and don’t have travel insurance, you are an uninsured patient and may have trouble getting care.

Robert Jackson was looking forward to his visit to South East Asia, spening several months planning his trip, reading the history of the countries he would visit and creating a demanding schedule for himself.

He was planning to travel to the less visited areas in Northern Thailand and visit as many of the holy sites as he could cram into his schedule. He had not had any serious illness for several years and his Family Doctor and the local hospital had taken care of all his minor Health problems. He did not obtain any travel insurance.

He had many plans and certainly wasn’t planning on visiting the Intensive Care Unit of the Bangkok Hospital, or spending over 48 hours unconscious, or having multiple surgeries. Nor planning on intensive rehabilitation but that’s what he got.

In spite of the fact that he was not too agile and had never ridden a motor-bike in over 10 years, he decided to rent a motorbike and ride around the back roads in Thailand. A truck that he was following too closely suddenly braked. Robert flew through the air and landed on his face in the road.

Fortunately he was transported into the city quickly and brought to the Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, a tertiary care JCI Accredited facility. As he was unconscious, he was admitted to the Neurological Intensive Care unit.

His family was contacted and consent for treatment obtained.

They were not aware if Robert had any private health insurance and were reluctant to guarantee payment for the care. In spite of this, he received excellent care and is now on his way to full recovery – after multiple surgeries for his facial fractures and skin grafting to other wounds.

He was obliged to take out a considerable bank loan to cover his care.

Melanie Albert was working as a volunteer in a children’s care home in Cambodia. After eating a very spicy dinner one evening, she started to have abdominal pain. Thinking it was indigestion, she initially ignored the pain but by the following morning realized that this might be something more serious than an upset stomach.

She had not obtained any insurance when she left Canada and naively thought that the province would cover her medical expenses while out of the country.

After been seen in the clinic she was flown to Bangkok. A diagnosis of Appendicitis was made and she had an operation on the same day. Her family came out from Canada and were able to have funds transferred to cover the cost of her care.

She was particularly fortunate as she was able to get to Bangkok on a commercial flight. If she had needed to have a special air-ambulance the cost would have been enormous. One of the features that’s always included in travel insurance is evacuation insurance, which covers the cost of being transported to a good medical centre close to your accident or where you were taken ill.

Recently another British patient needed to be transported back home after surgery and intensive care treatment for a collapsed lung, which happened quite spontaneously and without warning.

He needed a nurse and a doctor to travel with him as he was taking anti-coagulants and there was the possibility that he might need extra oxygen on the flight. He was flown from Bangkok to London; he traveled business class with his two attendants. Luckily he had good coverage for this very expensive journey.

These three patients, by the way, were all fit, young people with no previous medical illnesses who had no reason to believe that they would need hospital care during their vacation

Another award for Bandara Samui

Bandara Resort and Spa, Koh Samui, has been awarded a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor in recognition of the resort’s on-going excellence in performance and service.

Bandara Samui received 134 “excellent” or “5-Star” ratings from paying guests.

“The tripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence program gives exceptional businesses in a variety of industries around the world the recognition they deserve,” said Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for business, in making the presentation.

The award also signifies that Bandara Samui has joined an elite group of businesses who have achieved this standard of excellence, she said.

Mandarin Oriental adds Wellness Package

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and one of Bangkok’s premier executive health clinics have teamed up to offer a Wellness Retreat Relaxation package.

The package includes luxury accommodation at Mandarin Oriental (a superior riverside room or at different rates, an authors’ suite); return limousine transfers with fast track arrival assistance; daily limousine transfer to and from the selected executive health clinic; daily breakfast for two at Riverside Terrace; a customized dietary dinner for two at the Sala Rim Naam Thai restaurant; and one signature spa treatment for two.

All medical screening programs are conducted in selected leading hospitals in Bangkok – with the involvement of European centres of excellence, and, in conjunction with the Centre of Cardiovascular Prevention at Ferrara, Italy.

For further details – www.ceo.health.com/oriental/oriental.html.

Intelligent Spas still sees promise for spa industry in Asia Pacific

Intelligent Spas’ latest report on Asia Pacific shows plenty of promise for the industry in the region.

It also highlights the importance of the spa industry to tourism, including Thailand, where it brings in US$200 million a year. This does not include revenues from local Thai tourists.

“The report acknowledges the significant number of professional spas already in existence,” says Andrew Jacka, president of the Thai Spa Association and chairman of the Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Coalition, “and shows that a number of countries have yet to establish their first spa.”

Adds Julie Garrow, managing director of Intelligent Spas, an independent Australian-based research company:

“Following the global recession, the world experienced in recent years, this research is timely for stakeholders to recognize the changes in each market, adapt their business strategies, identify new business opportunities and maximize over-all performance.”

What impact the current turmoil in the world’s financial markets will have on the industry is another matter. More about this in coming weeks.

Key findings of Inteligent Spas’ report:

There are about 3,500 spas operating in the region, generating some US$2 billion in annual revenues and employing more than 50,000.

More than 60% of the 42 countries in the region are considered emerging or potential spa markets, “suggesting there are plenty of development and business opportunities across the region”.

The full Regional Spa Industry Repiort Asia Pacific 2011 provides a brief snapshot of each market – “a useful tool to short list potential markets, where companies may wish to do business”.

For more information: www.intelligentspas.com

Double honors for Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

The hotel also recorded second highest score of all city hotels in the world with 94.49 points. It now ranks 23rd best hotel in the world overall, up from 57th in 2010.

Its spa – The oriental Spa – was voted No. 8 in the world and No. 2 in Asia.

Bangkok also kept its first place spot as the world’s best city in 2011.

“There is an increasing amount of quality competition in Asia – so we are delighted to be once again awarded Asia’s best spa,” says Jan D. Goessing, general manager.

Also in Thailand, Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, was voted 7th best hotel in the world overall and second best resort hotel in Asia in 2011 – up from No. 9 spot a year ago.

Two new promotions from Bandara

The first is a limited-time “super saver”, good from now until Oct. 1, 2011 at Bandara Suites Silom in Bangkok. The promotion offers guests a special price for two persons of 2,170 baht a night for super room accommodation; and 2,450 baht a night for deluxe room accommodation. Breakfast is included for both.

The second is a Villa Special promotion, in effect until Dec. 21, 2011 at Bandara Resort and Spa, Koh Samui. The special price for villa accommodation starts from 6,600 baht a night. The price also includes breakfast for two.

12th annual World Gourmet Festival in Bangkok

Eight internationally known master chefs have signed up for the 12th annual World Gourmet Festival at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok. The festival runs from Sept. 5-11, 2011.

Gourmet festivals exist throughout the world but only Four Seasons Bangkok, said a Four Seasons spokesperson, brings award-winning master chefs under one roof for a week-long celebration of outstanding food and great wines.

The event is co-ordinated and overseen by Executive Chef Nicholas Schneeler along with Shintaro Chef Satoshi Sawada and Biscotti Chef Daniele Casin, all of Four Seasons Bangkok.

Each guest chef will be host to two evenings in one of the hotel’s restaurants. The popular World Gourmet lunch will be featured daily from Sept. 5-8, with cooking demonstrations from one of the guest chefs of the day, live cooking stations and a chance to sample some of their creations. The World Gourmet brunch will be held on Sunday, Sept. 11.

This year’s festival will also include two exclusive wine-tasting events by two well known winemakers as well as a tea-paring event by world class master tea blenders Dilmah.

Master chefs confirmed for this year’s festival:

Ivo Adam, Seven, Ascona, Switzerland; Adriano Cavagmini, Amaranto, London; Anthony Demetre, Wild Honey, London; Guido Haverkock, Espacio, I Portici, Balogna; Dolli Irigoyen, Espacio Dolli, Buenos Aires; David Lee, Nota Bene, Toronto; Hari Nayak, Orissa, New York; and Kazumi Sawada, Hoku, Guangzhou, China.

Also again this year, a portion of every ticket price, as well as proceeds from an auction, will be donated to HRH Princess Soamsawali’s Save-A-Child’s Life from AIDS project under the auspices of the Thai Red Cross Society.

The hotel is also offering a festival package that includes overnight accommodation for two, complimentary breakfast and a featured dinner.

For more information: Call 66 (0) 2 126 8866 or email: reservations.Thailand@fourseasons.com Individual dinner tickets can also be booked through wgf.bangkok@fourseasons.com

Expect the unexpected at elephant polo competition

If you’re going to Asia this September, think about heading to Hua Hin in Thailand for the 10th annual King’s Cup Elephant Tournament from Sept. 4-11, 2011.

You never quite know what to expect or what will happen. It’s full of surprises – even for tournament organizers.

Take what happened during the 2004 championship: The umpire elephant (the elephant the umpire sits on) – named Plai Kampaeng, took a liking for the star striker, Pang Dodo, and decided to make his interest known. Dodo wasn’t having any of it and took off, followed by Plai Kampaeng in hot pursuit. In case you’re wondering, that’s why umpiring is now done on foot.

The tournament will be held on the grounds adjacent to Anantara Resort and Spa in Hua Hin, a two-hour-plus drive from Bangkok.

A 3,000-seat stadium is nearing completion. Visitors will be able to watch the matches for free. The competition has drawn 55 players from four continents, including the famous All Black Rugby Players, German Princesses and Olympic Gold Medalists.

This year’s event will be bigger than ever. New additions include Chang Noi Children’s Day, an opening parade with army bands, Thailand’s last elephant spirit men and traditional dancers. Fifteen local and international celebrities have been invited to paint and decorate an elephant replica, which will be auctioned off for charity at the final gala dinner.

The tournament has raised more than US$300,000 for the National Elephant Institute, which provides medical care, sustenance, employment and mahout training to Thailand’s elephant population. The world’s first elephant-assisted therapy clinic for autistic children was sponsored by the King’s Cup Elephant Tournaments in 2009 and 2010.

For further information: anantaraelephantpolo.com

Princess to preside over charity dinner

HRH Princess Soamsawali will preside over a special charity dinner at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai on Saturday, August 27.

The dinner will take guests on a culinary journey through the secrets of Thai cuisine, with dishes created for the event by celebrity food expert, chef and writer ML Sirichalerm Svasti, popularly known as Chef McDang.

Proceeds from the event and live charity auction will go to HRH Princess Soamsawali`s Save a Child’s Life from AIDS project, under the auspices of the Thai Red Cross Society. The project was created with the prime objective to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It provides medicine to pregnant women who are affected with AIDS.

The event will be held at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai Cooking School, beginning with a cocktail reception at 6.30 p.m. and followed by a five-course dinner paired with fine wines. The menu will feature Chef McDang`s creations.

Tickets are prices at THB 3,500. The resort has created a special package who would like to retire to a guest room after dinner. The overnight package includes one night’s accommodation in a Lanna Pavilion, breakfast and dinner tickets for two people. Government tax and service charges are extra.

For reservations, contact Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai at 66 (0) 53-298-181 or by email at fb.chiangmai@fourseasons.com

‘Thailand’s place in Asia is unique’

By Dr. Michael Moreton

Dr Moreton, a British graduate, trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist in Montreal, Canada. After practising in the U.S. and Canada for many years, he went to China where he established the first Western-style maternity units in Beijing and Shanghai. He is now the International Medical Co-ordinator at the Bangkok Hospitals in Bangkok and Hua Hin.

Thailand’s reputation as a preferred destination for medical care is complemented by the country’s status as an attractive vacation destination.

In addition, many multi-national companies and International agencies have chosen Bangkok to be their Southeast Asian headquarters because of its reputation as a city that is a pleasant place to live. In 2010, that image was tarnished by political circumstances which were unfortunately magnified by inaccurate reporting by the media.

Thankfully, that is behind us. National elections have been held and, although enthusiastically sensationalized, were relatively peaceful. A new government is in place and democracy has been preserved.

The international hospitals were completely untouched by any of the disturbances, and the patients that came to Bangkok hospitals were quite safe.

People asked me then whether the streets were safe — I had to say that I could not be totally reassuring, foreigners will insist on hiring motor-bikes and falling off them. The injuries to foreigners in Asia are, for the most part, self-inflicted and have no political connections.

Thailand is a country that is well qualified as a destination for the patient seeking medical care. A country’s ability to provide care for non-residents is necessarily built on the structure created to treat its own people.

Only a country with well-trained professions working in a system that embraces excellence, and is well organized and ethical, can hope to build a system to treat visitors coming to that country for medical care.

Thailand’s place in Asia is unique. As the only country in Southeast Asia not to suffer the indignity of colonization, it has been a self-confident, outward looking, internationally minded country since its foundation. It has succeeded in combining its own inherent sense of warmth and hospitality with a well-educated medical community and modern medical technology.

For over a century Thai doctors have been training in the west and then returning home to introduce and integrate their new skills into the Thai system.

This ensures that the International hospitals remain on the cutting edge of medical progress. It also has the benefit that many of these advances are incorporated into the government system to treat the people of Thailand.

Thailand has a long history of treating foreign patients. The first hospital to be built in Bangkok specifically to treat its foreign residents, BNH Hospital, is now over a hundred years old.

The major hospitals Bangkok Hospital, Samitivej Hospital and Bumrungrad have been directing their energies to the International market for over twenty years, and forty percent of their patients are now international. Many of these patients are foreign nationals residing not only in Thailand but in the surrounding countries who recognize Thailand as having excellent medical care.

At the present time the largest group of medical travellers comes from the Middle Eastern countries, but an increasing number of people from Myanmar and Cambodia are seeking care in Bangkok. A large number of patients are now coming from east Africa as well.

Thailand’s formula is to offer courteous, competent, and compassionate care at an affordable cost. These attributes are further enhanced by the world-renowned graciousness of Thai hospitality. Almost every patient who enters a hospital comments on the communicative abilities of the doctors and the gentleness and kindness of the nursing staff.

It is a policy of the Thai government to be supportive of the work of Thai hospitals in providing medical care to foreigners. The leading hospitals have worked to provide a welcoming attitude to visitors and their families.

The hospitals are well placed and easily accessed from the areas where foreigners live or stay. The hospitals run elaborate concierge services, meeting patients at the airport and bringing them either to hotels or to the hospital.

Bangkok Hospital has a dedicated helicopter and is able to perform air evacuation for patients from all over Thailand and neighbouring countries. Arrangements have been made with local hotels for accommodation of outpatients or families and also have serviced apartments, on site, for this purpose.

The concierge departments help patients with visa issues should they outstay their visa, or re-book airline tickets when necessary. Hospitals have aviation medicine consultants who can facilitate repatriation, sometimes with accompanying doctors and nurses.

Bangkok Hospital has a referral center and receives several hundred enquiries daily by email and telephone from throughout the world. A telephone hotline with English-speaking agents is available 24 hours a day. Patients may also ‘walk–in’ either to emergency rooms or request an appointment at a primary care or specialty clinic.

The international hospitals are dedicated to providing comfortable access but even at government hospitals foreign patients can receive treatment if necessary. Of course, in these hospitals, the ability of the staff to communicate in English may be very limited. They often provide initial care and then make arrangements to transfer the patient to an international hospital.

Patients outside of Thailand or in distant parts of the country may use assistance companies to facilitate their transfer and admission to the hospital. This is usually initiated by patients seeking assistance from their insurance companies and are arranged to be brought to Bangkok.

Over the years, the assistance companies and hospitals have developed a cooperative attitude, and these transfers are achieved very smoothly.

Relationships with medical Insurance companies and travel insurance companies are essential in modern medicine. For international hospitals, there are the added complications of multiple companies in different countries, and in different time zones.

Thai hospitals have developed a reputation for quality ethical treatment and relationships are excellent. Hospitals have large departments dealing with third party payers. They obtain approval for admission and treatment plans and guarantee of payment for patients admitted in emergency situations, and are able to obtain pre-authorization for elective admissions.

This is essential not just from the hospital point of view, but also to provide peace of mind for the patient. Bangkok Hospital has developed some special relationships notably with CFE – the French agency that pays for care for French nationals outside of France – and has direct billing agreements with over 90 international Insurance companies, 50 of them in Europe.

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