Just when I thought I’d got to grips with Chinese culture another issue arose. Hospital care in China can be confusing to say the least, and medical care arrangements are very different to the west.
In this post, I’ll look at hospital care in China in more detail. If you’re moving there soon, you might also find it useful to read more about becoming an expat in our free eBook The New Expat.
Choosing a hospital
Depending on where you’re based in China you should do your research. If you’re in a large city you’ll have a choice of hospitals, but the standards can vary, so ask around when you arrive. The last thing you want is to be conducting this kind of research under pressure in an emergency situation, so I’d recommend doing this in advance. If you’re somewhere rural the chances are that healthcare will be more basic. A good insurance provider will usually cover you both in terms of advising on the best place for care, or air-lifting you to the best facility if needs be.
Public hospital care in China
Chinese public hospitals are open to all – just turn up, pay a small fee and join the queue. If you have a relatively minor ailment and a private hospital is a long way away then a public hospital may be the best choice. You should, however, be prepared for pronounced cultural differences.
Firstly, the practice of writing out signs in both Chinese and western characters is reserved mostly to Hong Kong and parts of Shanghai. Even the capital of Beijing has very little English signage, so navigating the wards can be a genuinely challenging part of hospital care in China. This is combined with the fact that English is far less widely spoken in China than many westerners imagine. Increasing numbers of doctors now speak English, but as you might imagine they are in short-supply for the purposes of navigating lost patients.
Don’t under-estimate how stressful it can be to be suddenly plunged into illiteracy and unable to communicate or understand at a time when you need medical treatment. If possible you should arrange a native-speaking guide to make the visit with you.
You will have to pay for your own medicines and scans when using hospital care in China. Chinese public hospitals don’t tend to take private medical insurance, although care is comparatively low-cost. You might pay $50, for example, for a scan to detect a broken bone, and medication prescribed by the doctor must be bought at the hospital by the patient. Additionally, privacy is less prized China, so don’t be surprised if your case is discussed openly in a busy ward.
If your complaint is serious, or you’re likely to be an in-patient for a longer period, then make proper use of your medical insurance in China and head to your nearest international hospital. Costs at these establishments are far higher, but insurance is accepted and you’re guaranteed an English-speaking doctor and equipment of an international standard.
A final thought
For more on making the move abroad, don’t forget to download our free eBook The New Expat which covers medical considerations, family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements and much more.
If you have any questions or thoughts on the points covered in this post, please leave a comment below or connect with us @now_health on Twitter.