The doctor is in

A boat on the Mekong river

Ray suggested a darn good topic. See folks!! A little input helps. Any more ideas?????  Anyway….Healthcare and access to doctors can be of a big concern to some and not to others. Let us start at the lowest level.

Pharmacies are everywhere, and this is the first line of defense if you are ill. Almost anything can be had and if you know the name of the medication that you require, they will just sell it to you no questions asked, unless perhaps it is a narcotic. In Canada, it seems there is a feeding frenzy when it comes to getting a drug that you require to sustain a persons health. Take Viagra for example…;)…… I imagine that a person would somewhat humiliate themselves to see a doctor and admit to a problem in order to get a prescription, but wait….. perhaps you will have to be sent to a specialist to have a look at the little general to determine if it is truly needed. You now

A river ferry

 have a written prescription that you can present to some nice young woman at the Pharmacy. After all that, you have to shell out the cash because it is not covered under your insurance plan. Thankfully the thousands of dollars spent diagnosing your now public condition is covered by your paycheck deductions and the tax payer. In Vietnam it works like this. You walk up to a nice lady at a drug counter. You tell her ( hopefully without too much signing) that you are having trouble and why. She pulls out the tablets you require and charges you for your purchase. After telling her that she is very nice but you have your wife or girlfriend in mind, you head off happily on your way. Pretty nifty huh? I have had these pharmacists give me penicillin for an infection, I also looked online on what was commonly prescribed for an abscessed tooth and sure enough, that is exactly what the gave me. I

Check out the engine

guess they do know what they are selling for the most common of afflictions. The one thing that bugs me is that they seem to love drug cocktails. If you have a cold or flu, you will get 6 pills. It seems there is no all in one tablets here.

buildings on the Mekong

Sooooo what happens if you get in a motorcycle accident and break your leg? If it is minor and not multiple fractures, a regular hospital will do. They see a foreigner come into the public system and they do not want to be the person that screwed up the job. It happened to a person I talked with and he was satisfied with the treatment he got. The total cost of setting and casting was about 12 USD. They truly do have a 2 tiered system here and if a person was afraid of the treatment they would get, just show a little money and all of a sudden you may be wheeled down the hall into another section of the hospital where suddenly the hallways are gleaming white and the doctors dressed in white gowns.

a town on a river

I also had the opportunity to talk with a person in my neighborhood who has been through hell with an ailing girlfriend and a bit of bad luck himself. A heart attack with all the hospitalization and surgery involved cost him 4000.00 US, and a similar amount has been spent on trying to save his girlfriend who is dying from cancer.

We in the west are very concerned about our health and well being, after all, it is driven into us everyday that we have the best system in the world, or people die here or there, but it is all relative. By our standards, healthcare is cheap here and if you have access to cash, the quality of service is very good. Even if you do not, as a foreigner here, you will be treated well out of fear that the government might think that the Doc was not doing his best. I have talked with many people here who take paying for healthcare as just another expense. When I ask them about most things that

A small tributary to the Mekong

 might concern a person the answer is usually the same. “No problem, I just pay cash and if it is really bad, I will fly to Bangkok” I did hear a word of warning about doctors in Vietnam as opposed to other countries. I was told that a person should look at the age of the doctor and consider. If he is very old, he was probably trained by the French. If he or she is young, the Americans were probably responsible for training. But if in the late 40’s or 50’s??? Probably appointed to the position by the government of the day.

Strokes and heart attacks here can be a problem. It is hard for ambulances to get through traffic, but that being said, traffic does move constantly here and a trip to the hospital may take less time than at home also,most people are locked behind gates at night. How could a paramedic even have a chance of rescuing a person behind a locked gate. 

If you can get a good deal on travel insurance….. Great, however, for most of us, the healthcare that one might need in an emergency is quite affordable and in many cases, cheaper than the cost of the travel insurance package. There still is no argument about having the piece of mind of being covered though.

Emergency numbers are


Police  113

Fire Brigade  114

Ambulance  115

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

3 thoughts on “The doctor is in

  1. Thanks Owen for all your information. My wife is addicted to your posts and says she will feel more confident travelling with me if there is a health system. Won’t be able to try the Viagra as it may just cause the next heart attack.

    Just recovering from a heart attack, but treated with stints. Been told I’m a new man with lots of energy! Good to go for many more years!

  2. Thanks Owen for the informative post and it’s a sign of the times and our age as to what exactly gets the first and most important hit….viagra hehehehe!

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