Postcards from Bali: What to do when sickness strikes

What to do if you fall ill in Bali

I am often asked about health issues in Bali. While neither of us has ever needed to go to hospital, we have heard reports both good and bad. The good reports concern the larger institutions. We have friends who swear by Siloam, another who received excellent treatment for a serious outbreak of dengue fever, or DB (demam berdara) as it’s known here, which literally means bleeding fever, at Kasih Ibu.

Many say that Bali Royal (BROS) is the best on the island. Despite common belief, there are hospitals here that, should you need them, will offer a high standard of care.  

We have been told, but have not needed to verify, that our retirement visa entitles us to a 70 per cent hospital fee discount. As expat health insurance (as opposed to regular travel insurance) is prohibitive for most of us, this is good to know. Certainly the ability to pay needs to be ascertained on admission, whether by an insurance policy or credit card. Far too many visitors get caught out without funds or insurance. Compassion fatigue has set in for their foolishness. GoFundMe is not the answer that some believe.

Read more: Postcards from Bali: 5 things to consider before retiring in Bali

But for less serious treatments we have found the small clinics in Ubud to be excellent. Ubud Clinic has a terrific small pharmacy with supplies for most needs. Our first port of call years ago was Toya Medika and we have stayed with them for medical problems, even though it’s a bit of a trek across town. They also offer home visits and have an ambulance service. I am sure that there will be clinics in the south that offer similar levels of care. The best recommendations are to be found from Facebook groups. Bali Travel Group is a very well-administered group full of useful advice. For my taste, Bali Retirement Group has been a bit snarky, but that might have changed since I pulled out.

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The most recent need for Toya’s doctors has been this week. After a sleepless night that I thought would never end, with symptoms ticking all the dengue boxes, I knew DB needed to be ruled out. The blood results only took four hours and I was called back so they could be explained. The lovely young Balinese doctor even gave me her personal phone number and email to contact her if I felt the need. The first tests were inconclusive for DB  but certainly some infection was at work so meds were prescribed.

Read more: Postcards from Bali: An expat’s guide to Ubud

The second blood test, two days later, ruled it out and the results were emailed to save me another trip. Not much works for DB except fluids, rest and local remedies, but hospitalisation is needed if the blood platelets drop below the normal range. I was obviously happy to have a negative result. It’s a very nasty disease and can be fatal.

My health is not the point of this post, however. I am keen to dispel the common belief that medical care here is inferior. We have been more than happy with treatment for, yes, DB (my husband, two years ago), shingles, UTIs and several other ailments. Similarly for dental treatment where our clinic is much cheaper and better equipped than many we have found in Australia. Some Australian health funds are even registering local dental clinics, I hear. If you can’t beat ’em, as they say.

So, visitors to Bali, get your travel insurance locked in but you really don’t need to worry if you should need medical treatment. In my last Postcard from Bali urged the need for anyone contemplating an extended stay, or even the big retirement move, to make a judgement call about their own health and fitness before making any big decisions. I can only reiterate. 

Have you fallen ill overseas? Or had difficultly organising travel insurance? Let Judi and the Travel at 60 team know in the comments section below. 

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