Healthcare in China for Foreigners
One of the most important factors in making a decision on whether or not you will be coming to China is the cost and quality of healthcare, especially as a foreigner.
Drink hot water – Traditional Chinese Advice
So, let us start with the not-so-nice side of healthcare in China. If you happen to start feeling ill here, and you tell any of your Chinese colleagues about it, they will begin with “Oh no. Drink hot water!” and then proceed to give you a cup of hot water. Telling you to drink hot water is a genuine effort in trying to help you (even though after hearing it for the fiftieth time, you want to blow up). So what does one do when confronted with the “drink hot water!” advice? Politely inform them that you have tried it (even if you have not) and request that someone accompany you to the local hospital to be checked by a doctor.
General Chinese Healthcare
When I say general Chinese healthcare, I am talking about the cheapest form of healthcare in the country, which is extremely basic, as well as cheap. There are a few limitations such as the certain hours one can come to consult a doctor. At the hospitals in Ningbo, one can only see a doctor during these times: 8am – 10:30am; 1pm-4pm and then after that you will have to make use of emergency services.
Usually it will cost about 15RMB to visit a doctor. You will have to register yourself first, so be sure to bring your passport and let a local help you register yourself at the hospital. You will get a medical book and card with your details and your medical history will be recorded in both the book and on the card. Doctors will load prescriptions onto the card, which will then be taken to the dispensary and you will receive your medicine there at the hospital as well.
The only thing is, as they are so incredibly busy, it is usually a 5 minute consultation and then there are no questions about your medical history. The quicker you can get out of there with a few scribbles in the blue medical book, you won’t exactly be getting premium healthcare. It is true that you get what you pay for.
The good thing about this is that if you have a chronic illness, such as asthma, and you know exactly what kind of medicine you use back in your home country, paying 15 RMB for a doctor’s appointment to renew your prescription makes it super convenient. I usually just go to the doctor once a month, get my prescription renewed for the month, fetch it from the dispensary and within 20 minutes, I’m off again.
VIP Chinese Healthcare
Now, if you feel like you are developing some serious illness and feel like you just need a normal doctor who actually looks at you and follows normal healthcare protocol, then you will have the option to receive such healthcare! Phew! However, a more expensive price tag comes with it. When I was stricken down with laryngitis and flu, the visit to a proper English-speaking doctor in the “Foreigner Outpatient VIP Clinic” cost me about 200 RMB. However, the peace of mind I had was priceless.
She made sure to get a good medical background check and noted everything in my blue medical book. She was also the first doctor that did not advise me to drink hot water. However, I did have a bit of fun with the nurses who took photos of me with the doctor for the clinic’s social media pages. I guess you could say I’m an official poster girl for Ningbo International Health Care Clinic.
To be honest, if you know where to go and who to ask, you’ll be fine. I was up and going within a few days of visiting the doctor at the VIP clinic and plan on going back to her if the need ever arises for me to go. I visit the general doctor for 15 RMB to renew my prescriptions. China is different, and I’d be silly to expect anything else, but they have their systems in place and somehow it works. I hope this will put some of you at ease with regards to any of your healthcare concerns you have.