Public hospital in China, Part 1


Queues at Chinese hospitals. Photo: China Daily

Occasionally, my stay at the local hospital did feel like a joke but not so much like a ‘haha I can’t control my laughter’ one, more like a frustrating, bemusing and perplexing kind of a joke.

Let me start by clarifying that thanks to my employment contract I am entitled to private healthcare in China. Now, don’t start imagining that procedures like teeth whitening or anti-wrinkle laser treatment are included in such care scheme-I wish! There is of course a limit to what I can claim on my insurance and up to what amount. Most regular doctor’s appointment, medication and treatments can be covered by my health insurance provider and so I in my three(!) years here I have not had to worry about how much looking after my health costs me. (until I got an email about an unpaid bill, total shock, but that’s another story)

As I mentioned, the insurer won’t pay for everything though and so recently I found myself going for treatment to one of the local hospitals in Guangzhou. The building is modern, clean and the institution comes recommended for being good quality so I didn’t feel particularly worried. I don’t have gripes as such with the hospital’s cleanliness (though there was no hot water, soap or toilet roll in the bathroom;  I’m sure the bed frames and floors haven’t been dusted for ages and the bed linen has not been replaced since the hospital’s opening a few years back..) but I do feel hugely disappointed with the service and care I received, as well as the general bizarre systems in place.

If not for my devoted husband, I would have never managed to sort anything out in that hospital. Yes, some doctors and nurses spoke surprisingly good English but they were constantly so preoccupied and rushing that they wouldn’t have been able to help me, even if they wanted to. The language issue was strange though because, like I mentioned, some staff spoke English but as soon as they realised my OH spoke Chinese, every single one switched to Mandarin and completely ignored me, including any questions I asked so that I had no choice but to rely on my husband to remember A LOT of information and then translate it for me. (I could maybe manage a simple blood test in Mandarin by myself but nothing more advanced).

So first of all, you need to register and get a medical card. Easy. Then make an appointment, which you can do online-as everyone living in China knows, Wechat rules here and almost anything can be done through it these days. This being one of the most crowded places on Earth, getting an appointment is not so simple. You might not be able to find a free spot for days and even then, only the ones at most inconvenient times will be left (so not good if you’re working) so one needs to be flexible.                                                         Here is where the ‘fun’ starts-any normal person turns out for their appointment before the scheduled time but over here, patients start turning up an hour before and don’t just sit patiently, waiting to be called or for their name to appear on the screen (I did say it was modern). No…they immediately start queuing up!It doesn’t matter that everyone has appointments with designated time slots, for some bizarre reason it is normal to queue for ages in front of closed doors just to get to the reception as early as possible and let the staff know you arrived. I could see no point of that until we reached the waiting area in front of the doctor’s consultation room. Then it became clear…


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