There are several mixed reviews about Chinese hospitals and myths about “socialized medicine,” but I deemed it necessary to mention a few things about our Chinese hospital experiences. Over the course of the few years we have lived here, one in Beijing and over a year in Shanghai, we have each been to the hospital a few times. In China, you don’t go to your family practitioner unless you have a really good expat medical package. Let’s face it, that pretty much rules 95% of all expats out because of the keywords good expat medical package.
In Beijing our experience at Ren Min Yi Yuan (People’s Hospital) was acceptable. There are many reviews about how dirty the hospitals are and that they would never go back. However, if you are on a fixed budget the expat clinics cost upwards of $150 USD just to see a physician. This does not include any treatment or medicine. Moreover, you will have to return for a checkup and to receive any results from testing – which will easily cost you at least another $100USD (about 700 RMB).
These are Chinese hospitals. Expect there to be no soap in the bathrooms, IV racks next to the toilets, and people smoking in the hallways. Ren Min Hospital was pretty dirty and there were workers carrying cement bags through the hallways, in which there were people on cots with IVs in their arms. However if you can learn to look past these aspects, which are are part of living in China, you may notice the positives. Below is a bullet list of my most recent experience and costs at Hua Shan Hospital in Shanghai.
Without going into too much detail about the idiotic events that led to this hospital visit, lets just say – I hurt my foot bad enough to warrant a trip to see if it was broken. Being in no mood to start off our trek through Central Asia with a broken foot, we headed off for Hua Shan Hospital. In a previous visit we had learned that one of the upper floors was host to a foreign clinic and we were immediately directed there. The costs were astronomical and x-rays would not be available for several days – they would call you at home and you would come back. For a cheaper and more efficient experience proceed immediately to what I believe was the “门诊”，men zhen or “outpatient clinic,” and talk to the attendants there. The most difficult aspect of this approach is if you do not speak any Chinese, however basic Chinese will be enough to communicate what hurts, where, and for how long. Moreover, you will find that most of the doctors actually speak English quite well.
- Outpatient Clinic Registration – 25 RMB
- Proceed to Station 1 (Patient- Doctor Consultation) – Here you meet with the doctor and explain what happened and he / she will prescribe a certain test and direct you to the next station. In this case an X-ray was in order.
- Payment Counter – 70 RMB – First you need to pay for your X-ray in advance
- 4th Floor X-Ray Lab – Go have your treatment or test (X-ray)
- Doctor Examination – Wait about 20 minutes for your X-ray to fully develop and then you show it to the original doctor you saw in station 1.
- Prescription Payment – 15 RMB – Luckily, it was not a break and he simply prescribed some pain medication.
- Hospital Pharmacy – Go to the 2nd floor and pickup your prescription from the” 门诊” ‘men zhen’ counter upstairs. This is a special window at which there should be no line of people where you can pick up your prescription at walk away.
Every time I go to Chinese hospitals I am amazed at the efficiency and speed at which everything is completed. There was practically no wait and we were out of there in a little over an hour.
Total price: 110 RMB – Which is only $16.10 for an outpatient doctor’s consultation, X-ray, analysis, and pain killer prescription. The alternative is to go to the foreign clinic upstairs and pay 700 RMB and another 315 RMB for an X-ray. This is without insurance of course and the foreign clinic has nice dry walled interiors, comfortable chairs, and English fluent doctors. I personally prefer the 1 hour $16 USD method over the $148.63 USD method that includes a day or two wait sometimes for results. Once again, if you can look past the fact that the building and cleanliness standards may not be the same, the efficiency, speed, and cost make up for these other irrelevant short-comings in my mind. The medical equipment used is top of the line and has usually purchased overseas.
If you need to go to any one of these hospitals the addresses are:
Beijing: Ren Min Yiyuan (Part of Peking University) – 北京大学人民医院 – 北京市西城区西直门南大街11号 – Beijing Shi Xi Cheng Qu, Xi Zhi Men, Nan Da Jie, No. 11
Shanghai – Hua Shan Yiyuan – 乌鲁木齐中路12号 近长乐路 – No.12, Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Changle Lu
I’ve always wondered if there was a western clinic here in Xinjiang if I would go there instead of the Chinese hospital – especially if the prices were as drastically different as you say.
I think that for a minor X-ray similar to what you did, the cost/cleanliness ratio would favor the Chinese hospital. If, however, I were in need of any major surgery or had a serious illness, I have no doubt I would skip the smoking-filled hallways of the Chinese hospital and head straight up to foreign clinic!
The only things about the hospital that really bother me are that there is: A) no toilet paper in the bathrooms; B) no soap in the bathrooms, and; C) you can smoke anywhere but there are no trashcans or ash trays. However, the doctors really know their stuff, so a face mask and purse full with TP, soap and hand sanitizer makes it all worth it.
To be honest, most Chinese hospitals are quite terrible from the eyes of foreign visitors, either in terms of sanitary and facilities or in terms of their capacity to serve foreigners, because many nurses cannot speak l fluent English, esp. medical terms.
However, with more and more foreigners coming to China, the demand for hospitals offering foreign language service is increasing. Hospitals like Hua Shan Yi Yuan and Rem Min Yi Yuan, which enjoy a good reputation in China, should make efforts to enhance their ability of serving foreigners, for example, recruiting more well educated doctors and nurses who can speak English well, or turning to some professional medical translation service for the translation of their websites, posters and signs.