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Chinese Hospitals from an American Perspective

Popularity 19Viewed 9591 times 2014-4-14 12:08 |System category:Life| Chinese, hospital, doctor, experience, pain

I am by no means an expert in healthcare systems; I am only speaking from my experience in my home country and in Beijing. So in America, when you see the doctor, or even go to an emergency room, they put you in a stationary location whether it be an examination room or a hospital gurney. You stay put and everyone comes to you--the nurse to record your height, the doctor to speak to you about your problem, and the follow up nurse to administer whatever test the doctor prescribed. Since the doctor is very busy, sometimes you have to wait a while, but at least you are in a comfortable room with magazines to read.

Chinese hospitals are the exact opposite. The doctor stays put and you have to run around getting tests and waiting in lines to pay for the services. 

A few weeks ago, I got a kidney stone and I was trying to tough it out because I despise Chinese hospitals, but the pain was too severe so with the help of my husband, I hobbled into the campus hospital. I couldn't stand, let alone walk, and I was crying on the floor. My husband was incensed that we were in a hospital and here I am with a severe medical problem and no one was helping me. The doctor told me that my problem was too severe for them to handle and I needed to go to the emergency room at the big hospital to get help and he sent us on our way; he told us to walk there. In the US, you would have an ambulance take you, but I realized that I've never seen an ambulance in China. We were really fortunate that a taxi pulled up as we were exiting the hospital and it took us to the bigger hospital. 

And now begin the endless cycle of waiting in lines and trying to decipher all the papers we were being given. After waiting in 3 different lines, we finally see the doctor. I manage to explain in my limited Chinese vocabulary what my problem is. She sends me to get a blood and urine test, which I have to wait in line to pay for, wait in line to do, and wait in line to receive the results. Oh, and the way you do your urine test is to pee into an open cup, then carry it back to the counter. Good luck not getting bumped into! All this time we are running around from line to line, I am doubled over in pain hanging onto my husband for support. Once she sees my results, she tells me I have a kidney stone and gives me more papers that I don't know what they say.

My tactic is to show my papers to random people, preferably people with some sort of uniform, but really anyone will do. I am directed to a small room labelled, "Therapy Room." When I am next in line, I hand him my paper and the doctor pulls out the biggest needle I have ever seen in my life. The needle itself was at least a millimeter thick and several inches long. Despite my fear of needles, I told myself, "Everything is going to be OK, nothing is worse than the pain I am in right now." Thankfully, that needle was only used to transfer some liquid from one jar to another. Then in English, he tells me husband to close the door. I am a little confused because everyone else had the door open, then he tells me to pull down my pants. Had I not done this before, I would have been very shocked, but I knew what was happening. For some reason, Chinese doctors really like to administer a giant shot to the butt for pain--I think its morphine or something. Whatever it is, it really did the trick. 

After the butt shot, I was standing tall and walking around. I felt on top of the world! I was ready to wait in lines for 4 more hours!

After that was more lines, more lines, and eventually I got an IV, another thing Chinese doctors love, and finally I went home with my husband's pockets bulging with more IV bags and medicine. 8:00 am to 3:00 pm at the hospital, a day well spent! I also missed my first day of classes. 

Going to the hospital was a negative experience; it is something I despise. I will try every home remedy before I go to a Chinese hospital again. All that being said, I don't criticize the healthcare system here. I actually think it is incredibly effective considering the enormous population. It's also probably way easier if you can speak and read Chinese. I also don't think that being sick should be a comfortable experience. In America, they make every effort to make you more comfortable, but getting sick shouldn't be luxurious. It should be awful so that you don't want to get sick, so that you do everything in your power to prevent yourself from getting sick. 

So in conclusion, I wish everyone good health and hope that you never have to see the inside of a Chinese hospital!

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Edit: A follow up with some more details about the American healthcare system.


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Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-15 01:35
Sorry to hear about the kidney stone. I hope you are well now. Your observations broadly fit with those of myself and my students. However I would say that big hospitals do have some emergency services section and that avoids the walking around departments in the day time. These emergency rooms are the only parts open late at night and overnight.
Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-15 09:38
Thanks for your story here, we have highlighted it on homepage.
Reply Report 财神 2014-4-15 10:06
getting sick shouldn't be luxurious. It should be awful so that you don't want to get sick, so that you do everything in your power to prevent yourself from getting sick. ... and you are from developed country...now visited the developing country's hospital. you can not imagine the situation of poor country's hospitals, really. wish you for your good health.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-15 11:00
财神: getting sick shouldn't be luxurious. It should be awful so that you don't want to get sick, so that you do everything in your power to prevent yoursel ...
That is so true. I can't even imagine the hospital in a 3rd world country.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-15 11:01
voice_cd: Thanks for your story here, we have highlighted it on homepage.
Thank you!
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-15 11:02
ColinSpeakman: Sorry to hear about the kidney stone. I hope you are well now. Your observations broadly fit with those of myself and my students. However I would say ...
Thank, I feel much better now. I was in the emergency room and after going to the normal sections for my follow up visits, it is true there is more walking. At least in the emergency room everything is on the same floor.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-15 12:54
jiewei798: Thank, I feel much better now. I was in the emergency room and after going to the normal sections for my follow up visits, it is true there is more wa ...
Good to hear. Yes of course if you have to come back for follow-up visits outside emergency hours, then you will move around in day time departmentalizations of hospital services. Strange I know!
Reply Report Zoggles 2014-4-15 13:59
Personally I found them much better than the English system (other than using the A&E ward for) you first have to make an appointment with your local GP wherever they are located, usually won't be the same day.. Go and see them, let them make their diagnosis and refer you to someone else somewhere else, or to a hospital.. again typically not the same day and another wait... In china, it's pretty much the same process but everyone is in the same building and you just queue rather than making diary appointments. Much more efficient.
Reply Report Daisy.Xie 2014-4-15 17:39
appeartly China has different satuation in the healthcare system with other devopled countries and  the population is big but the heathcare resource  and  working staff is limited. China is taking the effective measures to make the seeing a doctor more convenient and time-saving. it needs time, be confident with the reform.
Reply Report Batuapi 2014-4-15 18:12
Get yourself travel insurance when you are on a visit o a foreign country.  If you are working on expat term ensure the employer provides medical insurance.  In China you have an option of a local or foreign hospital.  The queue in the local hospitals is going to be long considering the number of patients awaiting their turn for consultation.  At least in the foreign hospitals the waiting time is much shorter,  this of course is a matter of costing.  I have been a regular visitor to the US due to the nature of my occupation.  Indeed the US could boast of it's medical services,  but again it comes with a price.  A simple case of an outpatient treatment for a case of influenza could chalked up a bill of a thousand USD.  In my country a private clinic providing such a treatment would cost only 30 USD and 2 USD in a government hospital.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-15 19:03
I just hate the lack of service. We wanted anti malaria stuff, after running around the hospital for about 1 hour with everyone saying contradictory directions, in the end I just marched into the contagious disease dept with the do not enter sign, asked the first doctor their only to be told that hospital didn't have such services haha.

Normally with such poor service, they would get fewer customers yet sadly, hospitals are a necessity which means we can hardly boycott them to make a point. But yeah, you are giving them money so they should provide for you, thats how I always think.
Reply Report juzunme 2014-4-15 22:17
Healthcare is a major issue in many countries. The US handle it via medical insurance. Most foreigner to the US would know they'll be in huge trouble if they fall sick without private health insurance in the US. The high cost ensure that adequate medical service can be delivered.
China, on the other hand, has to rely on mass production to deliver medical service at a low cost to most of its citizen.
There is no free lunch in healthcare. You either face the high monetary cost or the cost of a long wait if the cost is low.
The crisis around Obama Care Plan shows how divided public opinions are with regards healthcare cost and it's payment.
Reply Report ExileMick 2014-4-15 23:13
I don't understand the point of this blog. Is it just to complain about the one Chinese hospital that you had used or to praise the euphoria you enjoyed after receiving a drug?

Perhaps it's about the difference between American and Chinese hospital care? If so, shouldn't you also balance this by telling of the high cost of medical treatment in the USA. Maybe you could also explain why many US doctors are so skilled in the treatment of gunshot wounds, skills which most Chinese doctors have never needed?

Are you, perhaps, complaining that the hospital didn't have enough staff on duty to treat you immediately? If this is the reason, could you please tell us why you think you are entitled to such preferential treatment while others have to wait? (I hope you will never need to use an NHS hospital in the UK where, unless your need is extremely urgent, you may have to wait for a couple hours or more before anyone even looks at you.)

Enlighten me, please.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-15 23:33
So sorry you had a terrible time of things, and glad to hear you are doing better. Does your school not provide a liaison person to help you with such matters?
IMHO: After the frustration over nonsensical policies and the exorbitant fees charged for healthcare in America even with insurance, I am glad to fork over a few yuan for medicine or stand in line to see a doctor.
Reply Report cd231013 2014-4-16 07:05 (Pending for approval)
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Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-16 21:46
Zoggles: Personally I found them much better than the English system (other than using the A&E ward for) you first have to make an appointment with your local  ...
Yea, the American system is the same. First you HAVE to see a GP, then you can get referred to a specialist. So yea, I agree, the Chinese method is way more efficient.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-16 21:50
Batuapi: Get yourself travel insurance when you are on a visit o a foreign country.  If you are working on expat term ensure the employer provides medical insu ...
My work here provides insurance and when I was younger and living in the US, I was on my parent's insurance. I only ever paid the copay, which was usually $20, but they charge the insurance company much more. And I had an ACL surgery 2 years ago, I don't even want to tell you how much that cost  
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-16 21:54
seanboyce88: I just hate the lack of service. We wanted anti malaria stuff, after running around the hospital for about 1 hour with everyone saying contradictory d ...
Sounds pretty typical. I have heard several cases of patients attacking doctors for this exact reason; I guess that is their form of boycott, but its not very effective because then the doctors end up boycotting the patients.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-16 21:55
juzunme: Healthcare is a major issue in many countries. The US handle it via medical insurance. Most foreigner to the US would know they'll be in huge trouble  ...
I agree, you take the good with the bad and I'll take long lines over the ridiculous cost of healthcare in America.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-16 21:58
teamkrejados: So sorry you had a terrible time of things, and glad to hear you are doing better. Does your school not provide a liaison person to help you with such ...
No, there is no one specifically designated for such purposes, but we do have a Foreign Affairs person who I called and she translated some of what the doctor said for me. Yes, I agree with you, I like the Chinese healthcare system better, but it takes a bit getting used to.

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