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Hospitals in China – One Patient’s Review and How-to-Guide

After a morning of factory touring in Tianjin,  followed by a hearty lunch of raw crabs marinated in brine water with the factory boss (I had 5 crabs…groan),  I woke up the next day, back home in Shenzhen with the mother of all la du ze’s (diarrhea), swiftly followed by agonizing stomach cramps.

I sat in bed thinking about my options – tough it out at home, go across the border to Hong Kong, or brave the local Chinese hospital. Thinking that crossing the border in my current condition was impossible, I staggered out, hailed a cab and mumbled “BEI DA”. This is short for Beijing Daxue Yiyuan, or Beijing University Hospital. Just remember BEI DA, any taxi driver understands. It’s generally considered the best Chinese hospital in Shenzhen.

Upon entry, you should understand the general procedure for Chinese hospitals. There are two counters, one for general admittance and one in the Emergency department. You must first go up to the counter and register, fill in your name, date of birth and phone number . They process this, charge you 8 RMB, and direct you where to wait.

After only 10 minutes, my number came up and I got to see the English speaking doctor. Most doctors can speak some English, and if not, they can usually write it. This has been the case from my 5 visits to Bei Da. After vomiting right there into the bin in front of her, she poked around my stomach a bit. If it’s sore, you say “TONG”, if not sore where she pokes you, please  say “BU TONG”.

She quickly diagnosed me with acute gastro-enteritis, printed out a medicine receipt and sent me to the emergency ward.

Important step #2 in the Chinese medical system: you always pay before you proceed to the next step. So I staggered over to the payment counter, paid my 100 RMB for various medicines, and then they brought me into the ward.

I was quickly hooked up to a drip (like 95% of people in chinese hospitals) and thankfully within 10 minutes the stomach cramps had eased. In total, I was there for 3 hours under the watchful eye of the gentle nurses and spent 108 RMB.

So to summarize what do to in a mild emergency or to see a doctor about a normal medical condition:

1. Get to “Bei Da” (in futian region). If emergency, go to emergency section, if not , just go to the general registration right in the arrival hall
2. Register yourself on arrival, point to where is sore, pay your 8RMB, get your paperwork
3. The doctor can generally understand , or at least read, some English
4. Pay for your medicines after initial consultation , before a second consultation if necessary
5. In my experience of 5 visits, waiting times are usually quite short, but slightly longer in the evening

Stephen Browne




2 Comments for “Hospitals in China – One Patient’s Review and How-to-Guide”

  1. I think there a few main points that may be of interest:

    1. Clinics like Can Am may be fine for a non-critical event but they are not set up to assist in a real emergency in a timely fashion. Best bet is to get to a hospital. If you’re able to, the level of care in Hong Kong is still superior to Shenzhen and generally just more “western” which may be preferably for foreigners.

    2. In Shekou, Shekou People’s Hospital is pretty good. In Futian/Luo Hu Bei Da is the best. Bei Da should be the first option if you can get there.

    3. Note that some departments, even emergency, can be closed during lunch time for 2 hours so that can delay treatment.

  2. I too was struck down by the galloping trots, last time I was in China. I received excellent (but not inexpensive) treatment in the medical centre at the base of the FraserPlace building in Shekou. As a medical centre catering for ex-pats, everyone there speaks perfect English.

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