The rather xenophobic 'Bangkok Post' is running with an article today complaining that elderly foreign pensioners, mainly Brits, are being looked after in hospitals in Phuket despite the fact that they have no cash to pay for their treatment.
Some 337 foreigners 'mostly Brits' were treated in Vachira Hospital last year. But only 17 were penniless apparently.
This cost the hospital 1.7 million baht, roughly ten tooth implants in the UK I guess.
Now I am not going to go into the subject of 'Thai hospital bills', but the foreigners the Bangkok Post refers to are those who it says 'who came to Thailand with the hope of settling down' and who are 'now struggling after spending their pensions wastefully and marrying Thai women, some of whom left them after their money ran out'. Well that was a bit all encompassing! Others, the Bangkok Post pointed out, had simply forged their income documents.
In a way I guess the women who actually murder their husbands may be saving the Thai hospital system some cash. Anyway there's nothing like targetting pensioners. They don't as a rule have Rottweilers and can't chase you so easily.
No surprises at the Bangkok Post story, well it's a story about money and foreigners, or rather pensioners, not paying it.
But I know many British pensioners here. They are not as a rule thrashing out with their cash at 'Baby Dolls a go-go' (while many others I am sure do) but I guess it's almost a given that they do have people who squander their money for on their behalf.
The ones I know live frugal lives but they have difficulty explaining to their wives (1) that the British pound has dropped through the floor or (2) that the British state pension is in fact well under the 65,000 Thai baht a month spending money required to retire in Thailand OR (3) they are simply strapped for cash.
Some pensioners I suspect pay their fees and drinks at the Pattaya bowling green with the 'heating allowance' the British government is paying out.
('The pound has dropped through the floor' and 'I have no money' simply do not translate into Thai and are generally greeted with a blank expression. I have tried 'Mai mi ngern' in every tone God invented.
I was however very impressed with my daughter the other day, who faced with a choice of me buying her a bag of 'Maltesers' or a 5p bag of fruit sweets, chose the fruit thingies because the Maltesers were too expensive. She did not learn this from my wife)
The Bangkok Post is right in one respect. Everybody coming to Thailand should get full insurance. And those living here should take out a private medical plan. They can cut costs by paying for one, which covers in-patient treatment only if necessary.
There is also a serious problem in Thailand with Brits and other foreigners trying to live off considerably less money. This has in turn has produced the 'less wai' quotient, or in some case 'wai less'.
And if you have chronic liver disease due to alcoholism don't even think about coming here. Over Christmas a 'Time Share' guy (yes another Time share person) was put on a bus in Phuket by the British Embassy Honorary Consul and advised to hand himself into immigration. He had fallen off the wagon, was penniless and on over-stay having found that his Time Share job wasn't exactly a job. The University College Hospital in London had meanwhile put a message out through friends that he should return to the hospital immediately. It seems he was in a critical condition.
I guess the idea was that he would do a couple of days in jail for overstay and then deported when somebody found the cash for the ticket.
Another Brit came across him in Thanyaburi police station where anxious police wanted to know what to do about him. He had apparently been tried, convicted, and sentenced to two weeks as he could not pay the fine.
Pathum Thani prison discharged him to the nearest nick where by this stage he had turned a Disney shade of yellow. The Embassy had forgotten about him. But can or should they be expected to remember everything? Time share alcoholics are probably not on the top of their 'To Do' list.
I think he finally left Thailand last night with help from friends in the U.K. But my phone has not been buzzing with news editors anxious about his welfare.