A Chinese hospital experience in the eyes of a foreigner

Jacob von Bisterfeld
The author, after suffering broken ribs in an accident, went to a local hospital for treatment, and was truly impressed.
Jacob von Bisterfeld

A slip of the tongue may land one into verbal trouble but a slip of the foot may land one linea recta in hospital.

And so it came to pass that yours truly, in haste and in a bout of misguided efficiency, ran towards the closing doors of a Metro train, slipped while making a right-hand turn and fell sideways while clutching a mobile phone and so was unable to break a sideways fall and my chest met the pavement with a thud, with an immediate excruciating pain and breathing difficulties. Nevertheless, as I was still ambulant, I decided to proceed to my important meeting anyway and go for a medical diagnosis afterwards.

The No. 1 People's Hospital in Songjiang, a busy teaching hospital, is surrounded by verdant trees in a parklike landscape replete with helicopter pad and children's playground.

Equipped with the latest hospital "must haves," there are even several coffee shops, a self-playing grand piano (with invitation for the public to have a go too) and a large display of portraits and the antecedents of the more than 200 associated doctors and specialists on call and rapid service.

The public can make their own choice to consult which doctor or specialist on duty plus the relevant consultation fees: The more experienced and famous the specialist, the higher the fee. However, the standard outpatient consultation fee, for which I opted, was only 25 yuan (US$3.8).

Even without a prior appointment and on a non-emergency basis I was in the office of a chest specialist within half an hour and the verdict after a CT scan (which took 5 minutes): 3 broken ribs which would heal by themselves if I was careful, with plenty of rest and care; sleeping on the back and strictly no lifting of objects weighing more than a pound.

Armed with the medicine and painkiller prescription, I proceeded to one of the many scanning machines around, paid the relevant fees with my mobile phone and, by the time I arrived at the fully automated medicine warehouse, my name was flashed, the prescription was available for collection and I stood, once more, on the cobblestones with a bag full of Chinese and Western medicines, boarded my waiting Didi taxi and was home again within less than 2 hours after leaving.

Jacob von Bisterfeld is a freelancer.

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