Siriraj Hospital

Yesterday, I went to Siriraj hospital for the first time. The oldest hospital in Thailand, it dates back to the time of King Rama V and was established in 1888, shortly after a worldwide outbreak of Cholera. The first medical school in Thailand opened shortly after in 1890, and to this day, we regard doctors at Siriraj hospital to one of the best in Thailand.

Located by the Chaophraya river, it is a mixture of old Bangkok and modern-day Bangkok. There is the old original building by the river which stands like a relic to the past. It now houses, a medical museum for forensic medicine. ( I must say, it’s one museum I am reluctant to visit. I will one day perhaps, but not now. ) Behind the museum, are buildings that are currently in use and must have been built over 50 years ago. Newer and state-of-the art ones are being constructed close by next to the river. Upon completion, it would be a sight to see.

The building I visited was one of the older buildings that must have been built long before I was born. The halls were large, ceilings very high, and had enormous staircases. It was also congested, as any government hospital in Thailand. Wikipedia says it has more than 1 million outpatients per year. I am not surprised. Patients were everywhere.

I walked past Xray rooms, and beds with patients waiting patiently to be moved somewhere. Families and loved ones filled the halls. Doctors and nurses ran around. Helpers and administrative staff filled the tables.

It was still very much a paper based hospital. Upon registration, I was given a credit-card like hospital id card, and a designated paper folder with my name, number and scan code. Partly computerized, partly traditional. Wooden tables, benches and metal shelves stood under the beams of neon light. Everyone looked pale. A smell unique to hospitals prevailed.

Then I was told to go up to the fifth floor of the after-hours clinic. I was transported suddenly into the modern world. This floor had been renovated. I felt like I was in a private hospital with beautiful counters, comfortable chairs and orange lighting. Amazing.

This was an example of how the “old” and the “new” co-existed together. Out of sync but united by the sole purpse of helping cure people. Helping ill people get better.

It’s not easy for an old hospital as Siriraj to modernize it’s facilities and environment, while having to be in operation every day. Hundreds of patients await each day, some emergencies, some not. Looking back on my visit, I somehow feel a strange nostalgia for the “old” hospital that will one day be gone and all that remains is a “modern” and less hectic hospital.

I wish I had taken some pictures, but I was lost in a new “old” world that I had never been to. A world which will soon give way to modernization and new facilities. A world which our children will not know of. A world that will forever remain in my memory.

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