The Lao-Asean Hospital in Vientiane, an expensive medical facility, received two North Korean doctors to set up a practice on one of its floors. The hospital serves wealthy Laotians.
In Laos, North Korean doctors give their government a percentage of their earnings. The money these workers bring home is several times more. As the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of wealthy foreign patients, the hospital’s revenue decreased. The ward run by North Korean doctors ceased operations until the Lao government lifted the ban in May.
As operations began and the money rolled in, North Korea ordered its doctors to send larger payments, cutting their incomes. The doctors were sad because they had to pay more money than they earned.
Doctors moved to Vientiane to profit from tourism. They expect opening a hospital ward to be profitable. Most foreign tourists and residents recognise it as an international hospital with better facilities than other Laos hospitals. 10x higher prices, cash and U.S. dollars are needed to pay hospital bills.
Since May, the Lao government lifted the COVID-19 lockdown, and the hospital has been making a profit. Before the pandemic hit Laos, the hospital ward was established.
Two 40-year-old Pyongyang doctors founded and run it. They treat patients of all nationalities and earn a lot of foreign currency. Laos closed its border and banned interregional travel in 2020. Since the tourist movement was restricted, the North Korean hospital ward saw fewer patients.
As patients dwindled, the ward had to close.
The ward is making significant profits after the COVID-19 crisis.
A Lao-Asean hospital employee said that two North Korean doctors have been working there for two years, but could not say how they got there or what their positions were.
A Lao health official told RFA that the hospital is privately owned by Lao Medical Service Co., but that hospitals often hire foreign doctors.
The official said that many private hospitals in Laos employ foreign doctors and medical experts, including Chinese and Vietnamese.