Hat Yai is well known locally for its many clinics. Why does the town have so many?
There is a strong emphasis on medicine at the Prince of Songkla University campus in Hat Yai (Mor Or). There are faculties of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmaceutical science and traditional Thai medicine.
The Prince of Songkla Nakarin hospital in the same complex as the university is the biggest, best equipped, and most important hospital in southern Thailand.
There are many fancy private hospitals in southern Thailand, which look like 5 star hotels, but the doctors working there normally come from Mor Or and when the private hospitals need more expertise or equipment they go to Mor Or.
Many doctors have a regular job at Mor Or, work part-time at one or more of the private hospitals in town, and also run their own clinic in the evenings and at weekends. Some also lecture medical students. There are many poor people in Thailand but you won't find any poor doctors or dentists in Hat Yai.
You might think that the best service you can get is at one of the fancy private hospital. Admittedly, the buildings are very plush and the nurses and reception staff very pretty, but many doctors only work in these places as a part-time job and they work as employees. However, a doctor's clinic is his own private business and the market is competitive.
Also, when you see a doctor in a private hospital you will most likely see a generalist. The clinics all specialise in one branch of medicine and so the doctors working there are very specialised.
As a result, I have often received better service from one of the small clinics. For example, I once had an ear infection that was producing lots of wax and I could hardly hear. My ear was constantly wet and leaking.
The doctor at the private hospital simply assumed it was a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics. It didn't get better. I went back again and saw a different doctor. He made the same diagnosis and prescribed the same medicine. It didn't work. I went back and the same thing happened.
Eventually, I gave up and went to an ear clinic in Supasarnrangsan Road where the doctor quickly and efficiently diagnosed a fungal infection. He gave me one treatment and my ear was cured.
The clinics are small and have few overheads. There are no large buildings to maintain. There is normally one nurse who performs the role of receptionist, doctor's assistant, pharmacist and cashier. The doctor doesn't need to pay a bevy of pretty girls who just greet patients at the door. The prices, therefore, are a lot lower.
If you have medical insurance the doctor can write you out a proper receipt with which to claim. You need to claim through the insurance company yourself. One advantage at the large private hospitals is that they will process insurance claims directly.
If you have a medical problem, clinics are a good deal in Hat Yai. There are just a few problems.
Firstly, because they are all specialised you need to know where to go. Secondly, because the doctors only work at their clinics part-time you need to know the opening times. Thirdly, at most clinics everything is written in Thai. This is a big problem if you don't read Thai.
The purpose of this page is to try to provide the relevant information to help foreigners find clinics in Hat Yai.
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What to do if you have a health problem in Hat Yai
There is no General Practioner (GP) system in Thailand. For someone with a problem - unless it was an emergency - seeing a GP would normally be the first course of action in the UK, but it isn't the same in Thailand.
If you have a minor problem, go to a pharmacy. There are pharmacies everywhere in Thailand and in most cases the pharmacist will be able to make a diagnosis and prescribe medicine. Many drugs that would need a doctor's prescription in other countries are available over the counter in Thailand.
If you have a specific problem, visit a clinic where the doctor specialises in the problem you have. If you're not sure of the problem or can't find a suitable clinic, go to somewhere like Roengsak Polyclinic which is for general problems.
In the UK people only go to hospitals for emergencies. In Thailand people go to hospitals for minor ailments. I thought this was strange at first, but this is how it works.
In emergencies, of course, go straight to the emergency room of a hospital. These are open 24 hours, of course, and the staff are very efficient at dealing with incoming cases.
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The vast majority of clinics and pharmacies in Hat Yai follow Western medicine practices. However, Hat Yai is a very Chinese town and you will also find a few Chinese style pharmacies and doctors.
After a long running eye infection several years ago I went to see Dr Tang Ken Leang after he was recommended by a Chinese pharmacy. It was a very interesting experience.
His 'surgery' was located near to Gim Yong market, but unfortunately he has now passed on. His shop was unlike any doctor's surgery I had ever visited before. There was no receptionist and he sat behind a large desk at the back of the shop.
The shop was filthy and on his desk were scraps of paper, old photos, stationery, tea cups, teapots and a kettle. He chain-smoked and there were ashtrays full to the brim with cigarette ends. On the wall were old photos of Chinese men standing in front of Chinese temples. Presumably one of them was him when he was a younger man.
In addition to chain-smoking he used a spittoon that sat on the floor to his right fairly frequently. He spoke some Thai but very little English. I was warned not to say much to him, not to tell him about my condition, and not to ask questions.
On his desk was a small pillow. Patients rested their arm on the pillow while he felt their pulse. This was his main method of diagnosing problems. He asked me a few basic questions in English - my age, where I was from, and what I did for a living. He took a good look at me and asked me to stick out my tongue which he looked at with the aid of a small torch.
After feeling my pulse on both wrists for about 10 minutes he took out a writing pad. He then dipped an old-fashioned fountain pen into a pot of black ink on his desk. In the top right-hand corner he wrote my name, underlined it and wrote the date underneath. He filled the rest of the page with Chinese characters, writing from top to bottom and from right to left.
He had no set fees and how much you paid him seemed to be optional. My girlfriend accompanied me when I went and sorted out the payment. She took an envelope, put Bt100 into it, and gave it to him.
I took his prescription back to the Chinese pharmacy where they prepared my medicine. This included double doses of ginseng for six days which really bumped up the price. Even in Thailand ginseng is not cheap, especially the best variety that comes from America. The herbs I was given needed to be boiled in water and the resulting juice drunk like tea. The ginseng was soaked in the tea, chewed and swallowed.
I don't know whether it helped. At the same time I started taking the medicine, I stopped putting nasty drops in my eye which had been making things better rather than worse for a while.
I heard some time in 2008 that the doctor had died.
If you wish to see a doctor who works in a similar fashion, there is one located near to the Siang Dteung Rescue Centre on Suphasarnrangsan Road (Map 2) near to where the evening aerobics sessions take place. This place is well known locally.
Just opposite the centre is a large Chinese pharmacy called Taa Dtree. The doctor is located in a small clinic in the road that runs alongside the clinic. His prescriptions can be fulfilled at the pharmacy and so he is well known to the staff.
The Chinese doctor works between 9am and 7pm from Monday to Friday and between 9am and midday on Saturdays and Sundays.
The clinic looks a bit cleaner than the one I visited many years ago. Each visit costs from Bt100 to Bt200.
Chinese medicine pharmacies are very distinctive and quite different to regular pharmacies. Look for the red lanterns outside and the drawers full of strange looking herbs. If you wish to see a Chinese doctor who specialises in traditional Chinese medicine I would suggest asking at one of the Chinese pharmacies.
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Doctors and dentists in Thailand do a six-year degree course and a lot of their study material is in English. Many also study or work abroad for a while to get experience.
Most Thai doctors and dentists, therefore, speak reasonable English and some speak excellent English. Being understood shouldn't be a problem.
A big problem for foreigners regarding Hat Yai clinics is that in almost all cases what is written outside the clinic is in Thai. This isn't much use if you can't read Thai.
Conveniently, Thais have borrowed the English word 'clinic'. Therefore, if you tell someone 'clinic' and point to a part of your body they will understand what you need.
When written in Thai script, 'clinic' becomes:
Transliteration from Thai into English and English into Thai is a perennial nightmare. Most of the time it is phonetically inaccurate and it is always inconsistent.
For some completely unknown reason, some clinics spell the word in Thai with a long first vowel when they do the transliteration. Thus, the word becomes 'cleenic':
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The following listings are a work in progress. I will add more later and if the list grows too large I will provide the information over multiple pages. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I will try to help.
I have listed Dental Clinics, Beauty Clinics and Hospitals separately.
If you have been treated at one of these clinics, please consider providing some patient feedback. If you are the owner of a clinic and would like to add more information, please contact me.