Recently I had my first foray into the Chinese health system. As many of you may already know from previous posts, I have experienced several different physical maladies since arriving here in China. I’ll avoid going into the details of my recent malady, however I can share a glimpse into the Chinese health system and will also add that I was left completely satisfied from my first experience with it.
My recent malady kept me up all night one recent weekend so I had planned to go to the university clinic first thing in the morning. I was going to do my little pantomime dance and use recently acquired vocabulary from the massage place “Wo tang” (I hurt) and point to the part of my body that was feeling discomfort. I’m sure I would only have gotten strange looks and no help so thankfully, my wonderful Chinese friend and godsend Tien (this will probably not be the last time you will read about her) recommended that I stay away from the clinic. She said that they would probably just give me an aspirin and tell me to monitor my problem. What I needed was urgent and immediate care and real doctors to diagnose and treat my problem, so off we headed to the Xianlin Community Health Service Center, a short bus ride up the road. Now I would like to take a moment to clarify something here. This was a public health facility (hence the name Xianlin COMMUNITY Health Service Center). There were no lines going around the building. There were no numbers I had to pick and no ridiculous bureaucratic hoops I had to jump through to be seen by a doctor. In fact, when we arrived there, the waiting room was eerily empty. Okay, okay and the doctors were also on their lunch break so we did have to wait a little while since I did not have a severed arm with blood profusely dripping out. But other than that, it wasn’t bad for socialized health care.
To kill the time until the doctors returned from lunch, Tien and I walked a block away to “My Shop”, a little store about 100 square feet that sells American, British, Australian and German packaged and frozen food. It’s owned and operated by a Chinese man and not surprisingly, all the customers are expats anxious to stock up on items from home to cure a little bit of homesickness. I was actually on a different mission to get some cranberry juice for my current malady (and now some of you have probably figured out what I had. “I’ll take ‘Stephanie’s physical maladies in China’ for $300, Alex.”). After a German man depleted My Shop’s supply of granola bars, I paid the equivalent of a whopping $7 for my bottle of cranberry juice, a price I was more than happy to pay if it led to some sort of alleviation of pain and discomfort.
When we arrived back at the health center, I had to buy a medical record book at a window in the lobby. In this little booklet, the doctors make notes during any visits. This booklet should be kept and shared with any doctors at any hospitals during any future visits. Cost: 2.20 RMB (about 33 cents). I was then sent to the adjacent hallway with Tien and we walked into one of the doctor’s office. Tien explained my problem and symptoms. The doctor then said I would need to give a urine sample. So off we marched to the window in the lobby again (and still no line) to pay for that and get the cup. Cost: 26.50 RMB ($4). Three minutes later after a trip to the bathroom, another doctor or lab technician examined my pee sample in a very sophisticated, state-of-the-art, advanced microscope, computer machine. A minute later, she printed out a microscopic, computer-generated image of my urine. I then went back to the first doctor who looked at the image and then diagnosed and confirmed that I did have what I thought I had had. He then filled out a prescription for some tablets I would need to take twice a day for the next two weeks. Off we marched to the window again and paid for the prescription medication. Cost: 16 RMB ($2.25). We marched ten feet further to the pharmacy and I was then handed my two boxes of prescription. Total time (not including the lunch break when we first arrived): 15 minutes. Total cost: 44.70 RMB ($6.75)– less than the bottle of cranberry juice.
No deductible. No co-payment. No premium. No referral. No HMOs, PPOs or any other confusing acronyms. Just the doctors and the treatment. Health care was never made so easy…
PS: Two and a half weeks later, I am happy to report that I am now completely cured of my malady!
Originally published: October 26, 1010