Susan Bradley, blog author
Susan Bradley

Besides getting to China, what to pack, and financial considerations for the trip, many expats are concerned about what to do or what will happen if they fall ill while teaching in China. The good news is that there is excellent medical care and dental care available here in China, in most cities or at the very least in a larger city very near where you'll teach. Have peace of mind, and give your family members peace of mind too, that you will maintain good health here in China and you can seek excellent healthcare too, should you need it.

First off, it is a government requirement that every worker, expats included, have medical insurance. EF partners with Aetna International and provides teachers with three different medial plans to opt into. Every city is different, but typically most hospitals will provide all the medical care and dental care that you will need. Some even have a department dedicated to ‘international' patients, meaning they will have staff in this department that are multilingual and can help you in your native language. In any case, the staff at the hospitals are eager to help foreigners and they all want for the experience and treatment to go well and for the foreigner to be well taken care of. Most schools have a sick leave policy that will require a doctor's stamped excuse or note for your illness (clearly outlining your ailment and recommended treatment) which you will have to deliver to your DOS or Center Manager.

The hospitals are efficient and well organized. You can imagine how important this is simply because of the size of the population here in China; hospitals are treating people of all ages and a lot of them, all the time! Because of this, the processes for labs, or urgent care, or even for annual checkups, is so efficient! The operations in the hospital are usually by card, for identification and also for payment at each department internally. So you will ‘sign in' with your passport and pay a small amount of money that will be stored on your card (interestingly, this card can be topped up using WeChat Pay or Alipay at kiosks at most hospitals). There are options for visiting the hospital, most hospitals have an online process of scheduling appointments (all in Chinese, of course, so you will need help with this option), or you can just show up at the hospital (expect a bit of a wait), and make your appointment same day (or later if you wish). There is an intake physician who will with questions determine what you need next. You will either see another doctor or you will possibly have an IV drip treatment that with first experience seems a bit odd, but it really very effective.

If you are having annual exams, you will likely have set an appointment. The exam itself is no nonsense and though lacks in some bedside manner, is quick and efficient. You will be given the test tubes or jars to walk yourself to the lab for processing. There, the lab tech will give you a barcode for your specimen and a timeline for when you can visit another kiosk to get the results of your labs. If there is a concern, it is then that you would also receive a phone call and an appointment to see your doctor again. If there is no concern, the results will print out at the kiosk where you can see them and the ranges, etc. for optimum health. I recently had all my tests for my annual female checkup and the cost for this was under ¥600 which would translate to under $100 back home, which wouldn't even buy me an aspirin at a US hospital!

Each of us will have an initial and annual exam for our residency requirements. This usually consists of a blood draw, urine analysis, echocardiogram, weight and height measurements, and an ultrasound of lungs and abdomen. These regular examinations are extremely efficient and completed quickly. This exam is usually somewhere between ¥200 to ¥300 or around $30 to $45, which is embarrassing less costly than the same procedure and labs back in the States! And best news is, they are the same exams on state of the art equipment, just no touchy feely or pretty waiting room areas.

The biggest differences for me to my healthcare experiences back in the States, is that the processes here are extremely efficient and inexpensive; the costs are so very low. There is a blend of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine at Chinese hospitals, and both or a combination of seem to be very effective. No one wastes any time with pleasantries, in other words there is little to no bedside manner, just in and out and done and done. Sometimes because there are so many people around, there is a lack of privacy, as in people may crowd round the counter where you are paying or checking in, or they may even inadvertently pop into your exam room while you are with doctor. Hospitals seems to be a bit more worn than those in my city in America, I considered this due to the sheer numbers of people come and going for care on a daily basis - these hospitals are well used! Hospital stays (thankfully I haven't had one, but I have visited expats in hospitals here following surgery or who were extremely ill) and the hospital rooms are not well kept and the hospitals don't use the same level of pain relief or management following surgery or treatment that we seem to use back home. With this said, all the patients I've known to undergo surgery or hospital stays here, tended to leave the hospitals sooner than back home, too. These are not statistics, just my opinion and observation.

For some insight and for peace of mind, the medical care here in China is good and readily available. Some processes are different and most are more efficient. Best news is that should you fall ill or need medical attention, you will have support from your school staff in every way, and you will receive good and proper care during your stay here in China!

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