ExtremePerspective

Common sense perspectives and finding a way to retire

Health Care US / China

Posted by Paul on December 3, 2006

My wife is in China taking care of her mother who had a stroke about 10 days ago. It has been difficult to communicate with her since there are no phones in the hospital and she doesn’t have a cell phone. I last spoke with her Friday night (Sat 6am China time) and she was on her way to the hospital for the weekend. It seems that the family has to do all of the patient care in the Chinese hospital her mother is at. The nurses only administer medication. The family helps the patient use the bedpan (there are no bathrooms in the room with 7 other patients in it), change the sheets, and bathe the patients. Someone has to be with her mother 24 hours a day and her father is pretty frail, so it falls on my wife’s shoulders. Cost is high for locals ~ 1000 yuan a week Vs her parents retirement income of a few hundred yuan a month.

When I first went to China I was convinced that US Healthcare was the best in the world but now I am not so sure. One time when I was visiting my wife she developed a UTI and woke up in the middle of the night took a cab to the hospital and within 30 minutes had an IV drip of anti-biotics going into her arm. In the US, you typically wait until morning, call your primary care physician who has you go to the lab and submit a urine sample. Several days later after much suffering you might get a result and some oral anti-biotics. My wife got 3 IV’s within 36 hours and then 8 days of oral anti-biotics that time she was ill. The cure was 100% effective. My ex used to get UTI’s and spend months fighting the infection because the doctors were so cautious about using effective doses of anti-biotics.

I went into the hospital with my wife  to be with her for one of the IV’s. We sat in a large room with about 30 other patients sitting in chairs all receiving IV drips. Seems the Chinese have an IV drip for just about everything. The cost is pretty cheap ( less than 100 yuan or $12US). While sitting in the IV room, I saw the nurses constantly breaking small glassware that was part of the medication. There was lots of broken glass on the floor and more than one nurse got cut. There was not nearly the concern about infectious blood transmission that we see here. The hospital was generally pretty dirty (the bathrooms were the typical filthy squaters)

During the last few months I have been struggling to receive health care here. I think was affected by that spinach tainted with e-coli. But my PCP ran one test and discounted that. The only advice I have gotten has been to avoid dairy and eat crackers. Meanwhile it has taken me 60 days to get into the GI specialist. When I saw him Friday he criticized me for taking so long to see him. I about smacked him since it was his office that kept refusing to let me see him.

So I have to go into the hospital Thursday for some tests. I know the hospital will be clean and the care will be pretty good. But was it worth the wait?  China seems to have evolved a health care system that is able to treat its mass population quickly and cost effectively. We could learn some things from them. Unfortunately, we rarely look to the East for our solutions.

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