Had a significant health scare in early May, namely to do with my hearing. The first ENT doctor I met in Hangzhou‘s No. 1 People’s Hospital, a public hospital, recommended I stay in in the hosiptal for five days while they pump me full of steroids (no way is anyone going to fill me with that nasty stuff). An equally alarmed local friend introduced me to Dr. Ruan, a renowned acupuncture doctor with her own private clinic. Now after six weeks of daily Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage (tui na) I feel really great. Harmony reigns.
By all means visit the provincial and city public hospitals for the western medicine tests etc (the leading public hospitals have all the modern equipment you’d see in a hospital in Hong Kong or Ireland, and tests are cheap… an MRI scan cost RMB 450 (about Euro 40)), but try and find a recommended private doctor for the diagnosis. Such a doctor may well be an experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine (中医 / zhōng yī) practitioner who in order to trace the symptoms of an underlying disorder will check the pulse and inspect the tongue. Traditional Chinese Medicine, based on five thousand years of observation and experience, is tried, tested, and true, and, in my opinion, well worth trying.
Regarding the No.1 People’s Hospital it was like Hangzhou railway station on Chinese New Year’s Eve. If you don’t speak Chinese you’ll just be swallowed up, so make sure you have a local friend with you. Note, unlike the western medicine focus in patient confidentiality, in China there is no such thing as a private consultation: everyone is there listening in, and commenting if need be, and if you are a foreigner the bigger the attraction . Finally, we’ll I won’t mention about the way the blood test (RMB 80 (about Euro 80)) was handled. I’ll just write “fifth time lucky finding the vein”. Darts anyone? Call it what you will, but the needle eventually punctured the vein and blood was drawn. Next?
Private hospitals in Hangzhou appear to be a total scam… They have a pretty lousy reputation, in fact I have heard nothing good about them. Take the case of my friend’s wife who recently gave birth at a private maternity hospital in Hangzhou. The delivery went smoothly, but he, the father, was handed the wrong baby!
Health systems the world over are being stretched to breaking point: Good and bad everywhere. In the UK and Ireland you can spend months on a waiting list to see an over-priced consultant, while patients wait on trolleys for days and days because there are no beds, killer MRSA super bugs notwithstanding.
If you living in one of the bigger coastal cities, and you can blot from your mind the masses of people, thoughts about poor hygiene, and being misdiagnosed, and you have a local friend to whom you’ve explained in minute detail the nature of your illness, then attending a leading public hospital in a developed city isn’t too bad an experience – well at least in Hangzhou. Oh and always get a second, and even third opinion. That’s RMB well spent!