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Healthcare: Drips, Lines, and Labyrinths for Every Chinese Sniffle

July 20th, 2012 by · Leave a Comment

I have never understood the Chinese people’s love for visiting the hospital. It’s not strange to them at all – they mention it all the time: Your stomach hurts? Let’s take you to the hospital. Got the sniffles? Better take you to the hospital. Coughing a bit lately? You should go to the hospital to check it out.

Then when they get to the hospital, they register and stand in the hallways among ten million other people with colds, getting “drip” needles taped into their skin for hours at a time. It’s almost funny when you think about it – they went in with minor colds, and stand in the hospital with people that are actually sick, and then probably come out with more than they went in with.

But they see it as a necessity. Once when I had a fever and stayed home from school, the teacher was completely shocked when told that my parents hadn’t rushed me to the hospital and filled me with antibiotics through “drip” needles. It didn’t seem to matter to her that antibiotics don’t kill viruses – having “drips” is simply what one is expected to do here for almost any illness – no matter how mild.

Finding the right hospital can be a tedious process as well, as the system is like a maze. Last summer, I broke my arm during a trampoline accident, so we went to the People’s Hospital to get it checked out at around 5 in the afternoon. We didn’t know it was broken at the time, so after waiting for half an hour, we got some X-rays done and went to the orthopedics department to have a doctor see if it was broken. After waiting yet again, we went in to see a doctor, who looked at the X-ray and told us that there was a small fracture in my elbow, but children sometimes had these naturally, so we should go to the Children’s Hospital to ask a children’s expert to look at it.

So we stood outside the hospital for a long time to get a cab, and finally made it to the Children’s Hospital, only to find that the orthopedics doctors had all gone home. Someone recommended for us to go to Jishuitan Hospital, so after trying to find a cab, we arrived at a third hospital, where we were told to just go to the emergency room again because all the other doctors were gone. There, finally, many hours later, I got my arm fixed up. It really shouldn’t have been that difficult. Does it really take three hospitals to put a cast on a slight fracture?

This is just one example of the way the Chinese medical system works; not that they think anything of it. It’s just foreigners like me who find it weird, but I suppose that isn’t really a problem, because we rarely feel the need to go to the hospital at all. Might as well let them be as they are, and hope that their numerous trips to the hospital make them happy.

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