Medicine in darkest SE Asia


My mother was in hospital in the UK. She spent three weeks there, but she should not have been there. Why? Because she was merely taking up a bed because the doctors in charge of her case had not yet made a diagnosis, so she had to stay in for further tests.

All that sounds quite reasonable, until you find out that to have an echocardiogram there is a wait of several days, and another wait for the results. Ditto for the 24 hour Holter monitoring. Ditto for blood tests. Ditto for anything else.

I did manage to talk to my mother. You ring the hospital and then get the telephone number of the ward she is in, as they cannot transfer your call, as there is some problem with the switchboard. Then you ring the ward directly, and the nurse will give you the telephone number of the phone they take to the bedside. “But please wait a few minutes, so we can take it to her while she waits for your call. You’re lucky today, the phone wasn’t working last week.” So eventually you do get to speak to each other.

In the chat, I found out that mother had a fall while in hospital and has hurt her hip. She could not get about and had to use a Zimmer hopper. Previously she could walk normally. I asked if she had had an X-Ray of the hip. Negative.

Now to put you right in the clinical picture, my mother was 91 years old, but totally with it mentally. However, her skeleton was showing the effects of 91 years on the planet. She has osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) that comes with age. In a previous fall some years ago, she broke her arm. As my radiologist son in Australia said when I told him of the latest details on his grandmother, “Any 91 year old who has a fall on to a hip has a fractured neck of femur until proved otherwise.”

So I rang the hospital and asked to speak to the doctor looking after her. I am sure he is a thoroughly nice chap, but it took me two days to manage to track him down in the hospital. I do hope there were no emergencies also trying to contact him in that time. He agreed that an X-Ray of the hip would be in order, so he promised he would arrange it. Of course that took a couple of days, and the results likewise, but he assures me there was no fracture. I wish I could have had as much faith in his diagnostic ability with X-Rays as he has. It would have been nice to get the hospital in the UK to email me the digital X-Rays for my radiologists here to look at, and also to young Dr. Corness in Australia. Unfortunately, this was not possible, and the treating doctor did not know if the hospital had an email address. I shouldn’t complain, as in 1815 when they laid the foundation stone for the hospital, the UK was a little too busy celebrating the Battle of Waterloo to worry about emails.

But back to mother occupying a bed in the UK for three weeks. The biggest hold-up seemed to be the fact that the cardiologist hadn’t seen her yet, and it is he who wanted further tests. To bring you right up to date, mother had a series of ‘fainting’ attacks causing the falls. I have witnessed one and the latest was while she was in the hospital, so presumably witnessed by the nursing staff, even if the doctor was still being elusive. There is a clear history.

I asked the treating doctor why mother had yet to see the ‘Great Man’ and was told that he had been on holidays, there was Easter, and there was only one cardiologist. So mother (and I) were left waiting.

In Thailand, the entire process would have taken three days at the outside. And I know the NHS is supposedly “free”, but is actually paid for by the public purse, filled by the taxpayers! With private medicine in Thailand, you really never had it so good!