No-one likes getting ill, particularly not in a foreign country. The idea of going to a Chinese hospital is quite a scary one: hundreds of people, stress, queues, Chinese, injections are just a few of the worries that come to mind.
The Chinese medical system has both private and public hospitals. In lots of cities, including Qingdao, they have hospitals which are specifically for foreigners where all of the doctors speak English. These are usually more expensive than a Chinese hospital, but are still relatively cheap; the international hospital in Qingdao costs about 20 RMB a visit, the Chinese hospital about 5 RMB. Most hospitals practice a combination of both Chinese and Western medicine, and offer a full range of medical services such as check-ups, x-rays, operations, MRI’s etc. In Chinese hospitals doctors often won’t speak English, but will probably have a good command of vocab so can give you a vague explanation of what is wrong!
A week after falling on my knee and no sign of recovery, I succumbed to my pain and decided it was about time I visited my local Chinese hospital in Qingdao. If you need to go to hospital, there is really no need to worry! I will try and give you a simple explanation to try and make the whole process slightly easier for you. I have to say when I went I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Common Hospital Procedure
If you have a serious problem call 120 – this is the medical services emergency number! If it is less serious and you are visiting the hospital yourself, then make your own way there.
Just a quick point, I advise finding a Chinese friend to go with you. Unless your Chinese is very good it is quite hard to work your way around a hospital and the whole process can be very confusing! I went with my host family Mum who was extremely useful…
1) Arrive at the hospital and register (挂号 － gua4hao4). This involved paying 10 RMB, giving them my name and phone number. They then gave me a little card that was used for everything to follow. You say what is wrong with you, and they will tell you where you need to go and who you need to see and give you a ticket. (You can find some cracking “chinglish” in some hospitals – see below)
2) This ticket will have a number on it, so when you find your area you wait until your number appears on the screen. Sometimes it is best to go straight in and show them the ticket, doctors often have time for us poor injured foreigners!
3) Get the doctor to check whatever is wrong with you! In a Chinese hospital it is common to have the waiting room in the same room as the check-up room, so you have very little privacy. Fortunately, I was only having a check up for my leg (!).
4) They then tell you what you need to do next, be it further check-ups (检查 – jian3cha2), surgery, or medicine (yao – 药4). Whatever they say you then need to go back to the place you first registered, give them your card and they will then ask you to pay for whatever you need next. For me this was then an MRI scan which set me back 850 RMB, but if it is just medicine it is much cheaper.
5) If it is medicine you are getting, you then head over to the medicine area ( quyao 取3药4),and they will give you whatever you have just paid for. Then head home, do what the doctor advised and hope it will get better!
6) If you need further check-ups, you then go to the check-up area (x-ray clinic, MRI area etc.) and they will give you a date and a time to come back.
7) After you have had this check-up you get your results and go back to the initial doctor who will then give you a diagnosis.
This may all seem quite confusing, but there are lots of people around who tell you what you need to do. Just make sure you don’t lose the card they give you when you first register as they ask for this at each place and it holds all of your records on it!
I was surprised at just how quick the whole process was. I had fears of queuing for hours, but in fact didn’t have to wait at all. The doctors were very helpful, explaining exactly what was wrong in both English and Chinese and giving me good advice about what to do next. It is definitely much better to go to the hospital and see what is wrong than just hoping it will get better on its own. Cheap prices and limited waiting times make it much more appealing than an English hospital (it wasn’t even as dirty as some people make out, it was in fact very clean).
I have to say my main advice would be to not get ill, but if you do then hopefully this should give you an idea of how the hospital procedure will work.
For those of you who don’t speak any Chinese: There are also international hospitals and clinics in most Chinese cities! And if it is really important, someone from InternChina will accompany you to the hospital. Don’t worry, it’s only half as complicated as it sounds…to do an internship with us: Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or apply through our website!