Do you speak medical?

 Christian Laursen, 47, has been employed at BNH since the Summer of 2006. He is not planning a return trip to Denmark any time soon.
“I could have stayed home, but I would have become grumpy and bitter like many others in Denmark”, he says. In stead he bought a ticket to Bangkok hoping to find employment in the city.
“I spoke to a tourist chauffeur, I knew from previous visits. He told me to call someone by the name of John,” Christian laughs. Christian did call John and the result was a job as a translator at the BNH. The medical environment was not new to Christian who has worked in a home for asylum seekers under the Danish Red Cross.
“When I got fired, I thought: All right, it’s abroad or the rope.” The result was 10 years as a hotel receptionist in Tenerife which has made Christian fluent in German, Spanish as well as the Scandinavian languages.

Translating medical terms
Most of the time Christian just sits with the patients as the doctors brief them on diagnoses and treatment.
“They just want me there to make sure that they get all the medical talk right,” he explains.
Being a translator in a hospital is not a 9 to 5 job. “I am also on call when I am at home”, explains Christian who rents a wooden house in the heart of Bangkok.
“I once got a call at 3 am, because someone needed me to translate something for a Spanish patient. It turned out that the guy was actually Portuguese,” says Christian and emphasizes that Spanish and Portuguese are as distinct languages as it is countries.
“The actual salary for a translator at BNH is not something to brag about. – get by”, Christian shrugs.

Holes in the streets are good business
“My job is actually to translate, but a lot of my day is spent with walking from one farang patient to the other and asking how they are doing.” Christian estimates that BNH has around 40 per cent farang patients and quite a few of these come in with orthopedic injuries.
“People look up not down when they are walking the streets of Bangkok and that means broken legs,” he says.
“We have a deal with the road authorities that they should not fix all the holes in the streets,” Christian says jokingly.
Many other come to BNH’s pride and joy, The Spine Center where a slipped disk can be fixed overnight. That attracts quite a few Danes whose alternative is to stay home for conservative treatment in the public health sector.
Christian’s phone rings in the middle of his lunch.
“I have to go and translate for a Dane at The Spine Center. It usually only takes a minute,” he explains and leaves his Khao Pat Kai on the table.. 

Different from back home
As he returns, Christian is eager to talk about the differences between the private hospital in Bangkok where he is employed now and the public Danish health sector which was his surroundings for many years before he left for Spain.
“I believe all people are equal. I am no more than the cleaning lady here. The only difference is that she is brown and wants to be white and I am white and want to be brown,” he says.
“But talking to the cleaning lady was something that raised a lot of eyebrows here where the hierarchy is even more explicit than in a Danish hospital”, he says.
“The nurses here are really good at their job, but they are not even allowed to give the patients pain killers without the consent of the doctors. That’s just how it was in Denmark 20 years ago.
“The hospital is great with VIP’s because they provide them with discretion and privacy,” Christan adds. “In Denmark, paparazzi would cover the entrance of the hospital if the Queen was in there.”

Time is money
“In Danish hospitals you no longer place the patient in the center. It’s all about getting in and out of the hospital in a hurry to save money,” Christian says.
“You will also see that at the BNH as patients are not treated unless it is necessary.
“The last Dane I saw here was only here for less than 24 hours. He had diarrhea and just came in for IV fluid and antibiotics. I can easily understand the people who chose to come here for a brief treatment in stead of struggling in a hotel room for days and ruining their vacation,” Christian says.
“Over treatment of the patients was my biggest concern when I said yes to a job in a private hospital, but I never witness this,” he explains.


Don’t smile at the angry farang
Not all people understand what goes on around them and if they are stressed due to the circumstances, they can easily get upset. Christian is often called in order to mediate between the hospital and agitated farangs.
“I always ask them to call me before the patient gets too angry,” he says.
“Then it’s easier to do damage control. And it is always easier for me because the Thais have a tendency of smiling and nodding and nothing makes an angry farang angrier than a lot of smiling and nodding,” says Christian.
“Most of the patients get upset mainly because they are bored. And because they have become used to eating 40 baht meals in the streets, they may think the stay in the hospital is expensive. But this is a private hospital and the government does not support us like back in Denmark.”
“If people don’t like it here, I tell them that there are cheaper options in Bangkok, but actually I would not recommend anyone to go to any place but BNH for treatment.”

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