Since Heidi suffered from a persistent cold, she decided to see a doctor in Yangshuo. Accompanied by Sally, a young lady who works at our hotel, she headed for the local hospital. Unlike many people in Yangshuo, nobody spoke a word of English there! Her experience at this provincial hospital made us curious and we dug a bit deeper to learn more about health care in China.
Standard procedure in a Chinese hospital is to pay beforehand for every service. To see a specialist is 0.2 Euro. Afterwards, you most likely end up at the lab to undergo a blood test, for 1.4 Euros. Then, you go back to the doctor to hear the diagnosis and pick up your prescription. There again, you first have to go down to the cashier to pay for those… Heidi got lots for only 4 Euros.
Obviously, medical assistance is extremely cheap for European standards, but surprisingly there is no public health system in communist China: people have to pay for every consultation and for medication. We wondered what happens when it comes to major surgery or accidents. Well, two French journalists, who travel China frequently and write for Le Guide du Routard, told us the following anecdote. A Chinese student they befriended while they were studying Chinese in Kumming needed surgery. She was shopping around for months, bargaining with various surgeons to get a price she could afford!
Probably this explains the fact that there were few people seeking help in hospitals. Actually, some doctors sat in their bland rooms waiting for patients. Apparently for the local farming population, costs for consulting a doctor are too high, so this is an affair not to be considered light heartedly.
The doctor that attended to Heidi was not really full of smiles and kind gestures. Only after she returned with a perfect lab report did he seem more relaxed and subscribed tons of medication, offered an injection and advice. Having a chance to see some of the equipment, Heidi kindly said no to the injection. Also curious was the, for China so typical, disregard for non-smoking areas. Despite the big signs clearly asking for not lighting up, many of the patients and staff were smoking inside the hospital.
The other personal experience with Chinese doctors was with Dr. Lily Li, who runs a massage and traditional Chinese medicine business just off West Street. The place is a gold mine! Western tourists line up for a 60 minute massage for 7 Euros. Gilles chose the Relaxation Massage, which was actually only relaxing afterwards and Heidi left with a bag of “strong tea”, which tastes revolting and a 20 day ration of “weak tea” for 27 Euros, all this to cure her cold… This is a fortune in a rural area in China and up to now shows very little effect!
It appears that China abandoned all true real achievements of socialism, like national health care plans and free education, but only sticks to sinister principles, as tough rule and little freedom of expression. Secondary Education, by the way, is also not free and for the vast majority of the people very expensive.