Was it the shrimp you ate last night or a flu virus that’s going around? Don’t panic. There is health care in China! Our blogger Sara Naumann now takes you on a tour of China’s health care system.
The key is to understand that the standard of that care varies greatly depending on where you are. If you are in downtown Shanghai, you can find an international clinic that will look familiar and is staffed by English-speaking doctors and nurses who come from all over the world. If you are in the countryside visiting your factory site, you’ll likely find a crowded hospital that looks like it could use a fresh coat of paint and a good mop.
Either way, if a health emergency arises, it’s important to know how to be prepared.
What to have with you for health emergencies
- Passport – you may need to present this for ID purposes
- Insurance card – if you’re going to an international hospital you’ll need to have your insurance card along so they can try to bill directly. (It’s assumed that because you travel a lot, you’ve got health insurance that covers you wherever you are. But if you don’t know your health coverage, you should definitely check before you travel.)
- Cash – if you end up at a local hospital, you’re going to have to pay for every step up front. It’s impossible to predict how much things will cost and part of that depends on how serious your case is. My recommendation is to have 2,000-3,000 Chinese RMB with you when you go to the hospital.
- A Mandarin speaker – if you end up going to a local hospital, try to bring someone from the hotel / office / factory with you who can interpret. It may be very difficult to find anyone in the hospital who can speak English, especially if you’re far from a big city.
- An understanding of to what, if anything, you are allergic.
Taking the Ambulance?
If the situation is serious and you’re considering an ambulance, think about whether it’s necessary of if there’s a car/driver available to rush you to the hospital. In my experience, traffic does not make way for ambulances, even with sirens blaring so you won’t likely get treatment any quicker than if you just get going yourself.
Get second opinions, see what other options you have
Obviously each case is different. But don’t necessarily take the first doctor’s word for your treatment plan. If you don’t feel comfortable with the advice you’ve been given, it may be to your benefit to check or ask another opinion. Ask colleagues and business partners their opinion as well; locals will have some insight as to where you should have treatment.
For example, if you find yourself at a rural, local hospital and the treatment plan requires you to stay in the hospital, it may be better to get ameliorative treatment and get yourself to a larger city with a bigger hospital for any overnight stay. Unfortunately, the more rural you are, the lower the standard of the facility.
Of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? Try to stay as healthy as you can but if an emergency arises, you don’t necessarily need to get back on the plane. Get assistance from the locals you’re working with on where to go for the best care if you do end up ill in China.