Thai hospital negligence kills foreignor

For many foreigners living in Thailand, the thought that one day they may need to go under the knife in a Thai hospital is one that fills them with dread.

Obviously hospitals all around the world make mistakes, no matter if it is one in Australia or Afghanistan but one must assume that more mistakes are made the lower down the ladder of hospitals you go. Low wages = less job satisfaction. Corruption = old machines that may not be serviced properly. Lack of training = equipment not being used the way it is intended. If you take all of this in consideration Thailand would have to be in the bottom half of that ladder.

Personally I find it a little hard to fathom but there are many expats in Thailand who not only do not have health insurance but also do not have a big enough nest egg to allow them the peace of mind that a big city hospital in Bangkok would bring them. As a result they are at the mercy of Thai government hospitals when things take a turn for the worst.

This is a true story about one man who found himself in such a position. I need to inform readers right from the very beginning that I am not sure why he chose to have his operation in a government hospital in Ubon Ratchathani. Maybe it was because of money, maybe it was because he believed it was a standard operation so he thought ‘what could go wrong?’ I have never met this man but I feel that this story needs to be told.

Back in June last year (2010) Paul (Radar) Jellis an Englishman in his mid fifties was working in Sisaket teaching at Rajabhat. He needed an operation on his Pancreas and made the short trip to a government hospital in neighbouring Ubon Ratchathani to have it done. The operation was successful.

Unfortunately whilst in recovery the wrong drugs were given and not enough oxygen was administered, which resulted in Paul collapsing into a coma.

I first heard about it three months later in September. I was asked to put a call out through my blog to see if there were any readers in Ubon who might be able to visit and give his wife some respite.

One man who I will call ‘the saint’ was one reader who decided to see what he could do. The saint originally went to the hospital to see if he could help with Pauls recovery in any way. He soon realised that Paul was in a very bad way and recovery was going to be very unlikely. Being a former high profile lawyer back in his home country the saints lawyer instincts took over and he started to investigate what went wrong and what could be done. Despite his own ill health he put in a massive effort to try and seek acknowledgement from the hospital that they had made a terrible mistake and how they would look after Paul as well as his wife in the event that Paul might not recover.

As I do not want to jeopardise any potential compensation that just might be on the cards (although I doubt it) I have had to bite my tongue fingers and refrain from publishing specifics as to how the hospital handled the situation. The most I will say is that it was and still is disgraceful. Lies, manipulation, anger and down right deceipt. Management at this hospital should be facing criminal charges. They made a mistake, own up to it, learn from it and then move on. Unfortuntaley in a country like Thailand this rarely happens.

Over the months the saint kept me updated on the goings on and to be honest with you it was one of the most disgusting things I had ever read. The UK embassy was also involved although they were not much help and tended to side with the hospitals stance of ‘be quiet, forget it happened and all this will go away.’

On June 21, 2011 I received an email from the saint. This is part of it:

Just a quick note for now to let you know that Paul died at on Friday night. So he had been there 13 months since the hospital made its mistake. His wife called us Friday night to say Paul had been unable to get any food, even liquid, into his body the last 2 weeks and that his body was beginning to shut down. When we called Saturday to tell her we were coming over, she said Paul had died about an hour after the phone call.

She said that just before he died, she told him to sleep and not worry about anything, that she would take him back to where they lived and have the funeral there, and she would have his ashes with her. She said that tears then came from the corners of his eyes. The doctor then removed the respiratory tube and he died soon thereafter.

The funeral was held at Wat Luang in Sisaket where his body was cremated.

Below is part of an email from a friend of Pauls after he passed away.

Paul Radar Jellis originally from England died last week. For the last 13 months he has been in a Coma. He has been faithfully attended day & night for all that time by his Thai wife Or. His passing while sad is a blessed relief for all concerned.

Paul was an ex Brit Army tradesman and had a similar background in electrics to myself. In Sisaket he taught English at several of the schools and his last job was at the Rajaphat. All around a very sad way to end his life at 55yrs. He is survived by his old Harley Davidson.

Due to the hospitals incompetence Paul was killed. It is as simple as that. He was killed because of one mistake that should never of happened.

The worst thing is how he and his family were then treated as a result of this mistake. Lies after lies, cover ups after cover ups. All they wanted to do was get him out of the hospital as soon as they could or switch off his life support. The quicker they could bury (pun intended) the problem, the better.

Now mistakes like this unfortunately do happen and happen all around the world, it is the way that you then deal with them that shows your true colours. This hospital failed the patient and failed his family. Shame on you.

19 responses to “Thai hospital negligence kills foreignor

  1. I’d rather drive straight to Bangkok then have any illness dealt with in the provinces. We’ve seen too many bad experiences. I’ll only take my family there if it’s an absolute emergency.

  2. Jesus… that’s some story. I had a friend in Ubon that had a motorbike accident one night. He had traumatic brain injury. He was in the Sapphosit hospital in Ubon for a couple of brain surgeries… all went very, very well. Forget the fact that there were cats in the ICU, if you can overlook that – it was a good hospital to be in. Another friend had an appendix removed, and I THINK he was also at Sapphosit.

    Right – mistakes happen all over. For me, for a simple operation, I’d still opt for the public Ubon Hospital. Heard many good things about it – despite it being the government run, public hospital. There are probably many bad things I haven’t heard too!

    Rest in peace Paul… your name is so familiar, and I have no idea why. Will have a look on Google and see what I can find.

    • Hi Vern, nice comment thanks. I know that at the start it sounded like I was bagging out Thai government hospitals which I guess is true. I did try to even it out a little at the end by saying how accidents happen at hospitals the world over, it is they way management reacts to them that tells the story. This hospital that killed Paul is the same place that I trusted my daughters tonsils to and they did a great jon. I must admit this was before I heard this story about Paul so I am not sure if I would use them again. I had back surgery at a Ubon hospital as well two years ago but chose a private one for the main reason that they had a neruro surgeon and the government place didn’t.

      • In any hospital it’s a matter of luck. If your number is up – it’s up. There are hospitals in America STILL cutting off the wrong feet and operating on hearts, when they need appendix out. That it happens more in TH – wouldn’t surprise me.

        You’re pretty daring to do back surgery in Ubon! My wife’s mom needs it – but has seen bad surgeries her friends had – and just suffers with the pain of it every day. I assume your back is OK now then…

        I did an overnight in Sisaket’s main public hospital and they were a bit slow in figuring out what to do as my breathing capacity was about 10%, until I screamed to get me some air – I can’t breathe. All turned out well there though.

        • Hi Vern,
          I agree, hospitals all over the world make mistakes. It is how they handle them and if they learn from them that makes a big difference. Yes I hesitantly had back surgery in Ubon at Ubon Ruk hospital. I had an MRI scan done and sent the results to the head of neurology in Perth. He told me what needed to be done and to only have it done by a neurosurgeon. I found only one and he had done the procedure before so I got him to do it. As I could not move I didn’t really have much choice apart from being medi vaced to Bangkok or Australia. My back is now fine but I have to watch the weights that I lift.

  3. Well , this sad story could have been prevented alright,,but ‘ole Radar Jellis himself ! For the price of a Singha a day he could have had health insurance. Jellis cheaped out on himself and paid the price. This should serve as a lesson to skinflints living on cheap that it isnt always best to go too local.

  4. I got stabbed by a lunatic Thai bitch and was knocked out in the op lucky not life threatening but would not feel safe on the table for something serious in money hungry unsafe Lieland

  5. This is really a terrible tragedy and I feel for his loved ones. Although healthcare in Thailand is quite cheap and usually high quality, incidents like this remind tourists that there are still dangers. I strongly recommend that anyone looking into getting any sort of medical treatment in Thailand search the Internet and ask around for the most reputable clinics and hospitals. A friend of mine got dental care at a shady street clinic, and, not surprisingly, they screwed up her fillings and caused her a lot of pain. People should never have to suffer like that, or lose their life because of this unprofessional care. Any tourist who is the victim of malpractice in Thailand should immediately notify the proper authorities, and consider hiring a Thailand lawyer to file a lawsuit.

  6. Pingback: Please keep Mister T in your thoughts / prayers. - Page 3

  7. I knew Paul back in 1997 when we worked together on the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia. I often wondered what happened to him, because even back then, Paul developed Pancreatitis in 1999. He was a keen biker and bought his Harley from another expat who was leaving the country. We went on many rides together, me on my Moto Guzzi California and him on his Green & White Harley.
    I was just doing a search for Paul McHenry – a name he wanted to keep, but just found this article.
    My sincere condolences to his wife and family.
    May he finally rest in peace.

  8. Chris Blockley

    I met Paul in 1975, we joined the army together. I have been trying to locate some of my old army friends and was saddened to learn this tragic news. My heart and thoughts go out to his family. R.I.P. brother ‘Arte et Marte’ from your ‘old China’.

    • Hi Chris, I am really sorry that you found out about your old mate this way. It really was a tragedy and should never have happened.

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