I’ve never been attracted to Bali. Many, many Australians go there for the sun, surf and often the sheer luxury of the resort life, usually for a bargain price. Just a few hours away, it is an exotic tropical paradise unlike anything at home. But for us BigD-ers, it’s a no-go zone: dialysis units existed but weren’t safe (regularly re-using the lines, taking no account of the different dialyser cell requirements for different people, iffy hygiene, etc). So like many other third world countries, it was off the agenda.
Until now. There’s a new kid on the block: clean, efficient, reliable and above all, safe. It’s part of the brand-new BIMC Hospital that has just opened in the heart of the resort district of Nusa Dua.
The Hospital was founded by Craig Beveridge, an Australian who, after a friend had an accident at a Bali beach in the mid-1990’s saw the need for somewhere where people could go for medical treatment, confident that they would be as safe as they would be at a hospital or clinic at home. He set up his first Bali hospital in Kuta in 2007. The BIMC Nusa Dua is his second hospital. In addition to the Dialysis Centre, it also has an Accident and Emergency Centre, 24-hour Medical Centre, a Cosmetic Surgery Centre and a Dental Centre. All are or will shortly be accredited internationally.
The Dialysis Centre has six chairs and uses Nipro Elisio machines from Japan (not as well thought of as Fresenius or Gambro, but quite acceptable for holiday dialysis). They provided everything for each run except my (blunt) buttonhole needles and Aranesp (so I brought them with me). They do not reuse anything and provided the equivalent dialyser cell that I use at home.
Managed by the very personable Jo Skala (dialysis trained in Germany and Australia), it’s easily as clean and well-appointed as any unit I have dialysed at in Australia or Europe. The staff, all local Indonesia-trained nurses, are well-trained, friendly and efficient. One of the Centre’s doctors looked in on me during most sessions at no charge – unheard-of elsewhere! (I’m looking at you France.)
I nominated the time for each run before I arrived, but they were quite flexible when I needed to change it to fit in more important things like dancing, or a sunset over the water.
The set up at each chair was comfortable, with a personal TV (and HBO) and internet access. Morning or afternoon tea and cake/sandwich was free, along with a great view of the golf course and resident squirrels frolicking in the palm trees. Apart from a couple of minor hiccups, each run was smooth and uneventful (just the way I like them!).
They also provided free pickup and drop-off from anywhere in the area.
I was pleasantly surprised by the cost: US$399 per session. In South East Asia (actually in most parts of the world), that’s a bargain price for quality holiday dialysis. As I’ve said before, I think of the cost holiday dialysis as part of the fare: you can’t go without it. Also, with the discounted airline costs from Australia, and some of the bargain hotel rates, if you add the dialysis fee, the total still makes for a pretty reasonably priced holiday.
Of course the big benefit is the location. The Hospital has a couple of very flash villas on site, each with their own pool. We booked in there for the first night (to get a feel for the set-up) and last night (to minimise hotel checkout hassles), and had a great time. In fact in the first morning there I had my first swim in a pool in over twenty years (I normally avoid swimming because of my fistula), but my enthusiasm overcame my reluctance. I am now considering a regular swim at home (at least more often than once every 20 years).
The other days we spent at the Laguna Resort all of a five-minute walk to the Hospital. It was an excellent place to relax, soak up the vibes and to use as a base for further exploring. Just like the resorts you see in the movies: lots of pools, large and small, spas, massage, banana chairs and umbrellas on the beach, familiar and exotic food and drink. At 270-odd rooms, I thought it was pretty big until I heard one of the many other resorts there has over 2,000 rooms, so maybe it was cosier than I realised. Either way, we loved it.
Some people criticise Nusa Dua for being a luxury resort enclave that could be anywhere in the world, and suggest luxury in a more natural, Balinese setting like Ubud. But Ubud (and the rest of Bali) is about an hour away by car, and while Ubud is well worth a visit, having quality dialysis five minutes from our luxury suite on the beach was our definition of perfect.
Of course, the BIMC dialysis unit was not the primary reason we went to Bali: it just made the rest of the holiday possible, and we had a ball. The sights, smells and sounds of the truly exotic: an elephant safari, a jungle coffee grower (selling some strange but quite tasty Luwak coffee); amazing dining locations on mountains and beaches; fantastic rice paddy terraces; temples; monkeys; traffic chaos, motor scooters with whole families on board; an ever-changing panorama. All in six days.
Bali prices for most things are bargains. It’s part of Indonesia, so the currency is the rupiah. With the current (Feb 2013) rate of exchange, A$1/US$1 is worth just under 1000 rupiah. As a rule of thumb cross 4 zeros off the price to see the dollar equivalent. Good food is especially good value, as is clothing items at markets. For example a restaurant meal for two with drinks was around $20 and a T-shirt for a grandson was $3 after bargaining(maybe less if I was a better haggler!).
A couple of things took a while to get used to: it can get quite hot and humid (but air conditioning is everywhere, and I began to acclimatise the second last day we were there); the airport is in desperate need of modernisation (which seems to be in progress); the main road between Denpasar and Nusa Dua, is permanently clogged (though the main reason seems to be an upgrade due to be finished in a year or two).
But they are details. We had a great time in Nusa Dua and Bali. So much so that we have begun working on the rest of our extended family to consider hiring a villa in Nusa Dua within the next 12 to 18 months. That will be the difficult bit; the dialysis is already taken care of.