Healthcare in Pakse

Pakse sits at the heartland of tropical Southeast Asia, with the mighty Mekong River flowing to the west and south and the Sedonne River joining its journey from the north. All these factors expose the city to various endemic diseases typical of a tropical region.

The diseases that pose serious threat in Pakse in Champasak and the surrounding southern provinces of Salavan, Attapeu and Sekong are the  food and waterborne illnesses brought by diarrhea, typhoid fever and hepatitis A. Lack of proper sanitation is the major factor contributing to the spread of this disease, so be cautious when eating meat and fish, dairy, uncooked vegetables and peeled and unpeeled fruits. Only drink water from trusted source such as bottled mineral water.

Malaria and dengue are prevalent in the city particularly during the monsoon season. Prior to your visit to the city, make sure that your small bag of medicines contain anti-malarial drugs such as the prophylactic drug doxycycline. Other major diseases are Japanese encephalitis and rabies from stray dogs. Virtually all dogs in Laos are not vaccinated against rabies. When swimming in the Mekong be wary of the risk of contracting schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease contracted mainly from snails.

Healthcare in Laos is extremely basic and the relatively advanced facilities are located ten hours away in the capital Vientiane. In the whole country of seven million inhabitants there are only 5,000 hospital beds and a great number of towns do not even have a clinic. Government doctors visit a specific region just once a year. This leaves the local population, especially those in remote areas, to fend for themselves when struck by an illness. Most of them still practice traditional medicine that could otherwise be easily treated by modern medicine. Half of the population still treats malaria through traditional healers.

There are only two hospitals in Pakse that serves a region larger than Qatar. Many of the patients come from the whole of southern Laos while a significant number are the well-off citizens of Pakse. Although costs are not high compared with Western standards, hospitals in Laos have a “pay as you go” policy which means that you need to settle payment first before receiving treatment or medicine.

If you happen to contract a disease or an emergency, and these hospitals would be unable to completely attend to your needs, there are better equipped hospitals across the border with Thailand. Better yet, plan beforehand for any eventuality by purchasing a health insurance that could possibly allow for a transfer or airlift to neighboring Thailand. Inform your respective embassy about your condition as well.

These are the two hospitals in Pakse:

International Hitech Poly Clinic or IHPC (+856 21 031 214 712, ihpc_lao@yahoo.com) one block to the south of Champasak Plaza

Champasak Provincial Hospital (Road 46, +856 21 031 212 021)