It is never nice to fall sick or ill in a strange country. What happens if you do and need to seek medical help? Let us provide you with some useful medical advice and tips and how to seek medical help or assistance in China.
The Chinese medical system comprises mostly of public and private hospitals. Small and personalized clinics are still uncommon. Big cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai have hospitals, clinics and dentists established for foreigners.
Many of them are a part of local hospitals. Most hospitals in China practice the Western medical treatment system while a good percentage practices Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Increasingly, a large percentage of hospitals also practice a mixture of Western and Chinese medicine. Some can offer a full range of medical services such as operations, check-ups and in-patient facilities while other smaller clinics may simply be able to diagnose the symptoms of minor ailments.
Common procedures to visit a doctor in China
The first thing you should know about local medical services is the emergency call number 120. You can dial 120 from anywhere. An ambulance will normally arrive in a few minutes but traffic conditions can cause delays.
Most Chinese will visit a local hospital. If your company doesn't cover medical expenses or you can't find a Western clinic because you are in a much smaller town, you can also try visiting a local Chinese hospital. If you wish to do what the Chinese do, and you've decided to see a doctor in a local public hospital, you should have an interpreter accompany you as most of the doctors and nurses don't speak English fluently. You should have some basic knowledge such as the procedures (please read the English-Chinese chart on how to visit a doctor in China hospitals) and some useful Chinese medical phrases. Treatment is mostly Western medical techniques including diagnosis, medication, injection or the necessary scans. However, medications can be a mixture of Western and Chinese drugs.
Your doctor may give you a prescription for you to buy medicine in a drugstore, most of the time at the lobby of the outpatient section building. Go to a drugstore, show the chemist the prescription and you’ll be given what you need. Medicines in independent drugstores are often cheaper than those in hospital pharmacies.
There is a school doctor's room in the school. If you are sick in school, you can go to the school doctor's room first. The medicine in the school doctor's room will be cheaper than that in the hospital. The common cold can be effectively solved in the school doctor's room. If the school doctor's room can't solve the problem, you will be arranged to go to the school cooperative hospital for treatment. You will also be informed of the treatment process, the materials you need to carry and the precautions. Each school has its own medical process, which helps to avoid problems in the reimbursement of follow-up treatment expenses.
Chinese medical care system is improving all the time, but if you need to visit a doctor in a local hospital, especially in a small city, do be prepared for some cultural shock. Local hospitals are still pretty poor in the area of personal privacy and so do not be surprised if you share a consulting room with more than one patient. If you need to be hospitalized, you may be shocked by the low hygiene standard practiced in the smaller hospitals and privacy is always a problem as you are likely to share awards with a few other patients. Visiting hours tend not to be observed and some patients have many visitors that may turn a shared ward into a noisy room. You may find such lapse of privacy a major irritant.