A lot of people visit Koh Phangan and not discover that there is a government hospital on the island. This is because the hospital is located just north of Thongsala down a road most won’t go down. The other reason is that there are several medical centres in Thongsala and Haad Rin that are more visible and who attract the majority of burn victims and road accident victims.
These medical centres have competent general practitioners. For a narrow range of medical concerns they have plenty of experience and can make sound judgements regarding treatment. They also have access to speed boats who can take people with more serious injuries to the bigger and better equipped hospitals in Koh Samui.
The main issue with the medical centres and the main advantage of Koh Phangan hospital is the price. Here we see the dual pricing system in action. At the private medical centres they greet you with forms for you to claim your money back from your medical insurance, and you are going to want to do so because it is expensive. Look around in the waiting room: you see only farang busted up and burnt waiting to be seen.
I had an infection on my left foot that started out as an innocuous mosquito bite. I scratched too much and it bled and before I knew it my foot was going black and green. I got a lift on the back of a motorbike to Koh Phangan Hospital. They saw me almost immediately. A doctor examined the foot and then a nurse cleaned and dressed the wound. The bill was about 100 Thai Baht.
In contrast, my wife and I fell sick on the beach. We were delirious with fever and covered in small, hard red dots. We went to a medical centre in Thongsala. The doctor we saw told us we had a reaction caused by herpes. He sold us expensive medicine to accompany his handsome fee. When we returned to the beach we discovered a couple of locals had the same medical condition. They recognised it immediately as dengue fever!
Koh Phangan Hospital has a large corrugated metal awning at the entrance. It is a basic rectangular concrete building in a functional 1970s style. As you enter on the left is a treatment and consultation room, on the right is a small ward with 10 or so beds. The hospital is usually staffed with at least one doctor and one nurse. The hospital is clean and well stocked with the basics of medicine: bandages, swabs, antibiotics, aspirin. It doesn’t have much equipment. I am not sure if they have an x-ray machine. I doubt they could perform major surgery.
The doctors working at Koh Phangan are usually young and bright and capable of holding a conversation in English. They are starting out on their medical career. It is customary for newly qualified doctors to be given rural posts. Unlike the white Sadhus in Srithanu, they don’t view Koh Phangan as the centre of the universe, rather a back water to be suffered for a short time.
So if you don’t have medical insurance and have something wrong with you then your options are to use a pharmacy and try and self medicate or you can get a doctor’s opinion at Koh Phangan Hospital for a few dollars. This is easily done if you are staying on the west coast anyway.
You can take the road heading east from Wok Tum that goes past Wat Ampawan and Wat Phu Khao Noi. From Thongsala take the road heading north by Tesco Lotus. When you get to the petrol station (PTT) turn left and the hospital is on your right.