I Survived a Chinese Hospital

This wasn’t a post I was anticipating, but hey I got sick.

Walking to the hospital, though, here’s what I did anticipate: less than ideal conditions, less than ideal physicians, and plenty of paperwork. This is China: kids pee on the sidewalk, litter is dispensed in the most convenient fashion–drop it where you are. People here don’t mind things a bit more raw.

They also don’t mind a bit more chaos mixed in with their order. If you want a seat on the bus, don’t be meek and wait for the line to form. Even the little old ladies run along side before the bus comes to a stop. It looks like the baitfish swimming alongside a whale. I’m dreading the day someone falls underneath the wheel. I hope it ain’t me (yeah, I’ve gotten caught up in the routine, too.) It’s become a system of operation here. If you don’t play along, you pay the price as I did when I foolishly waited “in line” at a potluck. I was hungry all afternoon.

It’s the way things are around here. Take it or leave it. I’ve taken it for ten months and I thought I’d have to take it one afternoon under their medical care.

Here’s the rundown…

And here was my hospital.

My friend, Sally, a Chinese employee at my school acted as my guide. We entered and it looked quite nice inside. It wasn’t the carpeted, homey atmosphere of some American hospitals and clinics, but the tiled floors were shiny and the entrance spacious and modern. We filled out a form about a quarter of the size of a full sheet of paper, entering my name, sex, and DOB. Then we registered, collected a packet (oh boy, here comes the paperwork). Oh, and the registration fee: 5 yuan. Less than $1. Sally filled in the cover page—all that was needed, (hmm, so much for paperwork)—and we went upstairs to the directed area: internal medicine. Ladies behind some glass waited on us and gave us our room assignment.

That’s not Sally, but that was the lady who helped us.

We walked to the Dr.’s office and instead of waiting for him, he was there waiting for us. In a matter of 15 minutes (or less), of my first visit, I was being examined. Holy Jeez.

Dr. Now. Oh, and there, that’s Sally.

His examination didn’t seem too thorough. I had a super sore throat, swollen glands (or nodes, or something) on the sides of my throat/base of my jaw. My muscles ached and I had a fever sporadically for a few days. A headache was consistent, appetite was nil, nausea was spotty, and sleep was plentiful. He seemed to ignore most of that, looked at my throat, and ordered a blood test in minutes. We went out for it.

But hold on there, Sonny. First you gotta pay for that service. The cost: 24 yuan. Less than $4.

So we walked to the where these happened. A long counter that resembled bank tellers, each division with slotted glass through which to transact. Replace cash and paperwork with arms and needles and you get the idea:

Thanks for banking with us.

I stuck my arm inside and she took my deposit.

We, ourselves, took the blood vile to the testing area just a few steps away. They took the sample and tested it. Immediately. In a matter of seconds Sally had the test results in her hands!

good work

We then went back to the same doctor and after examining the results, prescribed me antibiotics and something for my throat pain. Tada!

Went entered the hospital at 4:55. We left at 5:35. And today as I write this, I’m feeling fine. 🙂

We in the U.S. have got technology and luxury fused in our health care system. (And I’ll take this any day of the week.) But somewhere along the line we lost some efficiency and a lot of affordability. I can’t talk too definitively as this was just one visit at just one hospital, but it sure was world away from the paper work, insurance, and multiple visits that a trip in the U.S. takes.

Here in China, there certainly is a lot that has me missing home. With that, it’s fun when I experience things that are done better.


p.s. Readers, I soon begin my three week trek through central China. Look for posts soon about this awesome exploration! Also, “like” me on facebook and follow me on twitter to keep up to date on my latest updates as I travel through Beijing, Xi’an and Lanzhou!



  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
    1. That is a great story, Larry. Not just because it’s a great feat, but because there are other projects in China that equal the impressiveness. China really knows how to do big projects well.

  2. So sad I won’t be in Beijing when you pass through (already back in the U.S. for the summer-until the end of August)….BUT let me know if you need any suggestions or help. You will love Xi’an! Have a great trip! I can’t believe it! You just described almost the EXACT hospital experience, symptoms, sickness, process, and all, that I had last October!!! Crazy, isn’t it??! Glad you are feeling better! You coming home after your trek?

  3. Brandon, I found it interesting reading about your hospital visit. If it was run the American way you would not only be still filling out forms, but also reading up on your rights and how the hospital would protect all your personal information (from whom ever was stupid enough to want it). I have also traveled a lot of areas in China, and I am very impressed by it. So impressed I brought 104 pounds of it back with me to keep around the house. Well, have fun, and don’t eat too much fresh dog or cat. 🙂

  4. The flipside to this is that if you have a more serious problem and need to see a specialist, you will need to get to the hospital really early in the morning to lineup to register (5am or earlier, depending on your problem and which hospital you go to), and then once you’ve registered you have to wait for your turn to see the doctor. At least this is how it is in the 1st-tier cities. And with the “baby boom” this year, many maternity hospitals here are out of beds/rooms – I’ve heard stories of expectant mothers being parked in the hallways.
    I will grant that for simple/routine procedures, such as getting your blood drawn or arranging for an X-ray/CT scan, the efficiency here is very high. However, if you ever become afflicted with a serious or unusual medical condition, your rosy view of Chinese hospitals will probably change.

    1. Gerald, thanks for chiming in and making the topic more well-rounded. I know one trip to one hospital doesn’t suffice to paint the whole health care picture in China, so I appreciate you honing the truth: )

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