This past Monday , January 9th, we had the privilege of visiting Bumrungrad International Hospital here in Bangkok. I had never heard of this hospital before Monday and now am a little surprised that I hadn’t – it seems like such a prestigious place that i feel like everyone should know about it! Before our lecture at the hospital began, we had time to eat in the lobby of the building. At this point when we all walked around the food court, I still had no idea that we were actually IN the hospital. The building is designed in such a way that the standard hospital/doctor’s office “feel” does not exist. Rather, I felt like I was in an upscale hotel or on a cruise ship getting lunch – we later learned that this was done intentionally so patients would not have that “I’m in a hospital” feeling, as it usually evokes mostly negative emotions. So, as far as the set up of the facility itself, I was impressed from the start.
After lunch, we sat in for a very interesting and informative lecture about the hospital from the CEO Mark Banner who is an American and has held his position at this hospital for the past 7 years. I enjoyed his presentation and his description of how they really try to cater to both the local and international patient. He said when providing care for “expats” or medical tourists, they ensure high quality care, low price and easy access. I was particularly surprised when he told us that treatment here costs are approximately 1/8 the price of what they are in the U.S. What a deal! They even have a system where they allow international clients to use frequent flier miles to cover costs for medial tourism. It sounded like an amazing system, very organized and focused on what is best for the patient – just how it should be. The cheap costs over here are also what allowed for the construction of such an amazing and classy building. We toured the facility and I again could hardly believe I was in a hospital. The patient rooms, lounges, waiting rooms, even reception areas all looked like they belonged to a hotel or display in an Ikea store. It was pretty fascinating. The organizational structure and different sections that the hospital was separated into also made it appealing. There are two sides to the facility, a Thai side (to focus on specific care needs for locals) and an International side. It was fun to walk around the international portion as we saw people from all corners of the world – Europe, America, Middle East… very interesting. Of course, I do not hope to have to be in a hospital any time soon, but if I do ever need certain care, the Bumrungrad Hospital seems like an ideal facility to do the job! I was very informed and impressed that day.
The next day, Tuesday, we had the JOY of visiting the Foundation for Slum Child Care (FSCC). We first met in one of the office buildings to discuss with staff the mission of the FSCC. This foundation has created four different daycare centers for infants to children up to age 5 who come from underprivileged families/situations. Most are from low-income households with young parents who are likely to have involvement with drugs and/or alcohol. It was really heartbreaking to hear about the situations that some of these kids are in but in turn, it was very heartwarming to hear about how these care centers operate and focus on creating better situations for the child and their parents. They work to form a better daily routine, give proper meals and education to the children – they also stress parental involvement and parenting education so that there is more of a family dynamic created. The mission and passion described from this staff during our lecture was really uplifting for me and touching to see/hear about. The best part of the day, however, was getting to see and interact with the kids.
After our discussion, we walked over to the daycare center next door and came directly into the eating area, which was wide open to the yard outside. We seemed to have caught the kids in the middle of meal clean-up, as they were taking turns clearing their plates and washing their hands – and, of course, staring at us the whole while. We smiled and they stared – I can hardly imagine what they must have been thinking as 18 of us walked in there at once. We went upstairs to the nap room where we were each invited to help with the “nap-time” routine. Coming from working at a preschool at home, it was really fun for me to see such a similar process taking place. I went in the nap room and attempted to help the kids get changed. They were all SO cute and very curious – some hesitant, others smiling and energized by our presence. They had little mats and pillows on the floor and we were helping them calm down so they could sleep. This seemed pretty difficult at first, especially with a bunch of strangers in the room. A few of the kids would cry when they saw us, but most just wanted to see who we were. I had the privilege of sitting with this one small boy, who I was later told had just turned one, and while he cried at first, I went over to him and patted his back, talking to him in a soft voice. Though he probably could not understand one word I said, it seemed to work as he calmed down and then let me hold him for a while. Eventually he was pointing at things and laughing; when I put him down, he would climb on my lap and look at me curiously. It reminded me so much of my work with kids back in Minnesota – it’s funny how little kids are always kids, no matter where in the world you go or what the circumstances are – they simply want security, love and attention. I was nice to see that these children all looked healthy and happy, and they made all of us happy as well. The already positive mood in our group was elevated through our interactions with the kids that day. I like that these types of interactions bring out a different, softer, more compassionate side of people and it was great to be about to see all of us bring that out during this outing. Finally, we actually DID get all of the kids asleep and then it was time to leave. On the way out, I met and spoke with an employee there who told me she had been working at the daycare for 8 months now – she is a retiree from the U.K. and wanted to do something meaningful post-retirement… “what a great way to fill your time!”, I told her. Very fulfilling work, I can imagine. I liked hearing that as I left the building. Many of us discussed how we’d like to comeback and volunteer here again someday – it is such a great foundation and after seeing all of these cute little kids, we all wished we could stay with them all day. Maybe there will be room in the future for further involvement with the foundation – I’d love to come back for that. We’ll see! But again, it was another day well spent in Thailand!