That said you call your colleague. You’ll need her help since you can’t speak Chinese. And so the story goes:
- “Hi! Sorry to bother you but I’m afraid I’ll need your help. I’m sick”
- “OK. Let’s go to the hospital.”
- “??? No, no. I’m not THAT sick. I’ve just caught cold.”
- “OK. I understand. Let’s go to the hospital.”
Willing or not, you end up in the hospital. You wait maybe 5 minutes in the waiting room and then they call your number. You go to the doctor’s office… where already 2 other patients sit (although no one seams to be bothered by that fact). You want to close the door but your colleague stops you from doing that. Apparently Chinese people don’t have sense of privacy whatsoever. There is ‘open door’ policy in the hospital. Not sure how to react you sit down on the chair in front of the doctor when 5 men suddenly barge into the office to consult their tests results. Completely lost in the buzzing noise, surrounded by the group of curious people (some of them probably came in just to see a foreigner) you just stare dully at the doctor. Finally it’s your turn to present your case (with your colleague serving as interpreter):
- “What’s the matter?”
- “I have a fewer, little cough, running nose and a sore throat”
- “OK. Let’s make a chest X-ray”
- “?! I have just sore throat…”
- “It might be pneumonia. Let’s make an x-ray”
The doctor said that he heard a noise in your lungs (it shouldn’t surprise you if you had considered that he auscultated you without telling you to undress. 3 sweaters you were wearing at the time might have had something to do with mentioned ‘noise’).
In general you can consider yourself a reasonable person. In normal conditions you would just calmly explain that you have common cold (as nearly every year) and there’s absolutely no need for an x-ray. This time however, due to the fewer and overwhelming surrealism of the whole situation, your reason appeared to be paralyzed. You just calmly go for an x-ray (and blood tests – since we’re at it). Technician also didn’t tell you to undress. Luckily at least at this case, your 3 sweaters didn’t look on x-ray like pneumonia. So after 1 hour in the hospital, having made an x-ray and blood tests, the doctor prescribed you… a cough syrup. Ehhh. You just wish to go back to bed.
At the end, to do justice to Chinese health care, you have to mention that situation described above took place in the small provincial town. If you’re in a big city (like Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou) there’s no problem to get yourself proper treatment. In those cities there are big, modern, international clinics and hospitals with foreign staff. In that kind of place you’ll get medical treatment that would satisfy even those used to very high standards of medicine. Not to mention that in the international clinic there is English speaking personnel.
What to do if you’re get sick in a small town?
- Find yourself an interpreter.
- Go to the hospital (Yes, hospital).
- Obtain Medi Card (cost 2RMB). You don’t even need a passport to register for that.
- Register yourself for the visit. You’ll get a number. Usually you don’t have to wait more than 5 minutes to be called.
- Forget about privacy and go to the doctor’s office (don’t be surprised if someone is already there or get into in the middle of your visit. The doctor won’t tell you undress either way.)
- Stay rational. Don’t let them send you for an x-ray if you have just sore throat.
- Pay for laboratory tests (or any other applicable). You should pay in cash. (Ex. blood tests cost 45 RMB).
- Get yourself examined.
- Get your results (simple blood test results are available after half an hour).
- Get back to your doctor (no need to wait in the line again. Just barge into the office ;o)
- Get prescription.
- Pay for the medicines.
- Go to hospital’s pharmacy to receive prescribed drugs.