Friday, October 24, 2008
Tubing in Laos and healthcare in Cambodia
This English lady came into the shop and told me she had hurt her foot while tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos. Tubing is where you sit on an inner tube (the inside of a tractor tire) and float down a river while stopping at bars along the way. I have never done it but plan to--it sounds like fun!
Except for a couple of caveats: don't get too drunk and drown and don't miss your last stop.
This customer told me if you miss your stop you may get lost, so you need to look out for the very last stop sign. She also said if you float too far from the river bank, don't worry because small Laotian children will dive in and haul you back.
You can read about tubing here www.travelpost.com.And watch a video of it on youtube.
Anyway, so this customer scraped her foot during the water ride. She did not see a doctor in Laos, only when she got to Siem Reap because by then her foot had become inflamed. She went to the Royal Angkor International Hospital.
She paid USD260 for the first visit to the doctor--USD100 for consultation alone. Thereafter she had to go back everyday to get her wound dressed and each visit was USD36. She went back twice before deciding it was not worth the money, since all the nurses do is clean the wound with saline and apply antibiotic cream. She figured she could do it herself since you can get these things cheap at pharmacies all over town.
Luckily this young woman has travel insurance. Imagine paying USD400 to fix a scrape! I asked if the international hospital employs Western doctors--is that why it is so expensive? She said only Asians tended to her, although she is not sure where they are from. So anyway expect these prices if you visit an international hospital in Siem Reap.
At the other end, Cambodians pay 5000 riels (USD1.25) for a consultation with a local doctor in a clinic. You wonder if the doctors are any good since corruption taints everything in this country.
However, I think Khmers themselves know when a doctor is good because you can tell from results. Khmer doctors also do not need to have a degree, in my opinion, because they learn from experience. And in this regard they are sometimes better than Western doctors, especially when it comes to local diseases. To give you an example, when we lived in Phnom Penh I used to take my dogs to a Khmer vet who has had no formal education. But because Parvo virus is common in Cambodia, he managed to save Austin simply because he has dealt with so many similar cases (Parvo survival rates for puppies, Rottweilers and Dobermans are 30-50%). A Western vet who has had little experience in Parvo, on the other hand, may not be as well-placed to care for the animal. Although I am sure Isabell, our German vet here in Siem Reap, would disagree!