Thursday, December 2, 2010

Comprehensive Immigration Reform - Part 6 Medical Examination

Bumrungrad Hospital Heart Bypass Package Offer
 Last night we returned to our home in Northeast Thailand from one of our many trips to Bangkok as part of the process for applying for an Immigration Visa to the USA for my wife.

The application process commenced in July of this year and it appears that it will be concluded by the end of this year.  It will be concluded in the sense that my wife will either be granted an immigrant visa or will be denied an immigrant visa.  However the final determination for my wife to enter America will actually be made by the Immigration Authorities at her point of entry to the USA within 6 months of receiving her visa.

This trip to Bangkok which I wrote about previously was to receive a required medical examination prior to my wife's personal interview at the United States Embassy later this month.  I had chosen to have the medical examination performed at Bumrungrad International Hospital.

We had made arrangements over the telephone with hospital for an 8:30 AM appointment with one of the US approved doctors.  Since it was Duang's first visit to the hospital we were instructed to arrive at 8:00 AM to register with the facility prior to the examination.

We arrived at the hospital complex at 8:00 AM and we were immediatelyy impressed.  Bumrungard International Hospital is a huge facility celebrating its 30th anniversary.  The facility is a collection of tall modern skyscrapers.  Bumrungard was listed by Newsweek magazine as one of the top ten Medical-Tourism facilities in the world.  The international aspects of the facility were immediately apparent as we exited the taxi inside the guarded gates of the facility.  Looking around at the other patients and visitors to the hospital seemed to be like a visit to the United Nations.  There were many people from the Middle East and Africa using the hospital.

As instructed, we entered the Clinic and went to the 10th floor.  The "registration" area was located on the 10th floor and resembled more of a reception area for a five star hotel or a private bank lobby.  The room was very well decorated and relaxing.  The office furniture was expensive looking.  The women who handled the registration process, were all attractive, beautiful, and dressed extremely well in appealing business type uniforms.

We sat in very comfortable heavy upholstered chairs at one of the desks.  The receptionist took down Duang's information and entered it into a computer.  As part of the registration process Duang's digital photograph was taken and printed out as part of a traveler sheet which accompanied her with vital information through her examination.  The registration process was quick and extremely efficient.  We were sent to the 15th floor and arrived there at 8:25 AM.

At the 15th floor there were 4 waiting areas, A,B,C, and D.  We were instructed to go to "D"  Each of the waiting areas had a central station manned by several women.  Examination rooms and consultation offices were located behind the stations.  In front of the central stations were large upholstered benches and chairs similar to a typical airline business class lounge.  A large flat screen television provided entertainment as well as a rack of newspapers and magazines representing the major languages of the world.  The lighting in the waiting area was carpeted and very comfortable.  Once again there was a very relaxing ambiance. We turned in Duang's traveler sheet and we sat down to wait for further instructions.  As instructed by the US Embassy website "Packet #4", I had printed out the 6 pages of forms to be filled out.  I had filled out the general information on the forms but found out that it was not necessary since the hospital already had the forms and were filling out all information themselves.

At 8:28 AM Duang's name was called and the process commenced.  During the entire examination process we were accompanied by a hospital representative.  We did not get anxious or confused about where to go next during any of the steps of the process.

The medical examination was a fairly typical examination, blood drawn, weight, height, blood pressure, checking eyes, nose, ears, throat, listening to the heart, checking the abdomen for masses, personal interview and chest x-ray.

As part of the medical examination and evaluation process, there is a determination of vaccination requirements by the doctor.  Most of the vaccinations listed in Packet #4 are more applicable to children than to adults.  The doctor determined that Duang needed to demonstrate that she had been vaccinated for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.  Since she has no record of vaccination and I suspect that she was never vaccinated for these diseases, the doctor had her receive Td (Tetanus and Diphtheria) and MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccines.  She was injected in each of her arms; she quipped "Medicine for Thailand, Medicine for America" as she pointed to each arm.

Tuesday's vaccinations are only a start.  The Td vaccine requires three doses.  The next one to be 4 to 8 weeks from now followed by the third dose 6 to 12 months after dose #2.  The MMR vaccine requires a second dose 4 to 8 weeks from now.

The examination process lasted two hours.  We were told that the paperwork would be available in one hours.  The waiting area was so comfortable and interesting  that we decided to just wait for the documents rather than leaving and returning later.  Our wait actually ended up being 1-1/2 hours due to the delay in getting the chest x-rays delivered from the lab to the doctor.

We were given a two packets of x-ray films and documents to bring to Duang's interview.  The packets were thoroughly sealed with tape along with the hospital's stamp covering both the tape and an unsealed portion of the envelopes; high security measures to prevent tampering prior to delivery to the US Embassy.

We paid for the examination, 1,930 Baht ($64.33 USD) and first doses of the vaccinations, 1,408 Baht ($46.93 USD) at a station located on the same floor as the examination facilities.  Although we did not require any medication, there was a pharmacy directly across from the cashier.

$111.26 for two vaccinations and a medical exam including chest x-ray - another reason why I enjoy living here in Thailand.  Medical care is still affordable here for expats.

During the wait, I found some hospital literature for various services.

Total knee replacement at Bumrungrad International Hospital has a median cost of $15,014 USD.

Total Hip Replacement is a median cost of  $17,483 USD.

Heart Bypass surgery is a median cost of $29,198 USD however there is a special package available for $16,633 if you pay the hospital directly!  The package deal includes doctor's fees, up to 7 days hospitalization, and in hospital medicines.  Six years ago I had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia - In the hospital at 8:00 AM and out of the hospital at 2:00 PM the same day - $15,000 USD.  There is no wonder that some people decide to come to Thailand for medical treatment.

Completing our business at Bumrungrad International Hospital was not the end of our medical dealings during this trip to Bangkok.  For about a week Duang has been complaining about one of her eyes.  We decided that upon our return to Udonthani we would go to a doctor and have it looked at.  As it turned out, throughout our stay on our way to and from our hotel, we walked by a very nice clinic inside of the CRC Tower/Conrad Hilton Hotel associated with BNH Hospital.  On our last night in Bangkok, it occurred to me to get treatment there rather than waiting to get back home.  This is Thailand - no need for an appointment; just walk in.  We saw a doctor who examined her eyes and diagnosed that she had an inflammation of the conjunctiva but not infective conjunctivitis (pink eye).  The cost of the visit as well as for the two medicines was $40 USD.

So another important milestone in our quest for an Immigration Visa has been completed.  It appears that the process will take 6 months.  In a later blog I will share how much this process actually cost.  Once again I need to remind the reader that we are following the current process for legal immigration to the USA.  Because we are legally married, Duang is allowed to go to the head of the line so to speak - "At this point, you are 6 months from maybe getting a visa".  Because I have stayed in Thailand for over a year, our application is processed here in Thailand rather being processed at one of the regional centers back in the USA.  I believe that being processed in Thailand has got to be more expeditious than going through the regional centers based solely on the workloads for regional centers as opposed to a Embassy.

It has been 5 months and counting for a specialized case; the legal spouse of a natural citizen.

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