China Observations- Chinese Healthcare

Now…. a long time ago (almost a year!) I did a podcast about worldly healthcare. If you heard that- this is just another story about the glory of the Chinese healthcare system.

Now, excuse me, I need to book a plane to Ohio where my insurance is taken so I can get a physical…….. Just read this article from my aunt.

It’s almost six years now, since my double mastectomy. Surgery is not for the faint of heart. Not for anyone, of any age. But perhaps certain countries are slightly more frightening than others? Let me tell you a little about China’s health care.



First of all, you don’t go to see doctors. Well, not in their offices. They don’t have offices. You go directly to the hospital, which resembles an enormous emergency room. Which is exactly what it is. You may or may not get to see someone the same day you go, or you may need to go back the next day. I believe it’s like an old fashioned bakery; you arrive, take a number, and wait your turn. No one checks to see if my broken arm should take precedence over your sore throat.



Speaking of sore throats, the sticks that they use to inspect them? We used to call them the “Ahh” sticks (as in “Say Ahhh”)? Theirs are wooden, just like ours, but they reuse them. No kidding. They dip them into a solution of … something … and use them on the next patient. I’ve been told that they don’t have a medicinal taste, so no one is quite sure what the “solution” actually is.



They also don’t change gloves. It apparently doesn’t matter who or what the gloves have touched.



Our English ESL teacher had trouble getting her Chinese visa. It took three months and she finally arrived just after Christmas. In the mean time, other teachers had to teach her classes (which was a terrible strain, but we survived it). Then, over the New Year holiday, she fell off the Great Wall. If it wasn’t such a tragedy, it would sound like the beginning of a bad joke.



She needs surgery on both of her knees. There are two kinds of surgery: replacements or repairs and the surgeons who perform one kind, do not perform the other. She has opted for knee repair on one leg and will wait six months to have the other repaired.



Her surgery will not be arthroscopic which means they will need to cut her open. This also means that her recovery will take longer than hoped. Another fly in the ointment: she is allergic to anesthesia, so they will be cutting her open and she’ll be fully awake.  Hopefully numbed – but even still.



The rest of the staff is, once again covering her classes.


Surgery was scheduled for this coming week. But, but, but. There’s a bug going around and she caught it. Her throat became so swollen that she was having trouble breathing. She returned to the hospital a dozen more times to find out what was wrong. The first six visits didn’t accomplish much. Finally someone decided that she needed five IV treatments on five different visits to get rid of the virus. (This didn’t sound right to me – I thought you couldn’t get rid of a virus?) She needs to be virus free before the surgery takes place.



But here’s the kicker. She needs to be checked into the hospital, and ready to be cut open BEFORE the insurance company will sign off on whether or not they will pay for the procedure.   She doesn’t have enough to worry about? What with the rubber gloves and not being able to communicate with the surgeon directly?



According to a study done in 2000 (before the birth of the Affordable Care Act) the United States ranked 15th in performance but 1st in how expensive health care coverage was – which bumped it down to 37th in the world. Pop quiz: Best and most affordable health care in the world? A) Canada B) Sweden C) Italy D) France? Canada ranks 30th, Sweden ranks 23rd, Italy ranks 2nd, and France ranks 1st.



Granted, that was sixteen years ago. I wonder where we sit now? But 37th is … we can and should do better.  N’est-ce pas?


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