Information on Health Care

General Issues

Many international travelers and expats have asked many questions about health and wellness. For medical care services, it is one of China’s WTO (World Trade Organization) commitments that international travelers and expatriates in China can receive the same medical services as local people.

Due to differences in language and social habits, it is recommended that international travelers go to hospitals specifically designed for foreigners, which tends to provide services with the international standards. These hospitals are available in most major Chinese cities that have so-called VIP wards (Gao Gan Bing Fang). These VIP wards are originally facilities where high standard medical care is provided to high ranking government officers. This practical medical service offers special benefits and ready access to modern medical technology and skilled medical staffs. In order to match international medical care standards for international travelers and expatriates, Chinese have hired English-speaking doctors and nurses. Most of these VIP wards may accept credit cards as payment.

Over the years, China has permitted foreign medical and health care providers to open their branches in China under WTO commitments, though these services are usually more expensive than hospitals and clinics operated by local governments. For example, Australia-based company, GlobalDoctor Ltd. And Singapore-based international emergency provider AEA (Asia Emergency Assistance) have opened their clinics in some major Chinese cities.

Ambulances do not carry sophisticated medical equipment, and ambulance personnel generally have little or no medical training. Therefore, injured or seriously ill patients should take taxis or other immediately available vehicles to the nearest major hospital rather than waiting for ambulances to arrive.

Be aware that HIV has become a significant concern in China. You should always ask doctors and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared to pay for new syringe needles in hospitals or clinics.

If you are an expert professional working for a Chinese organization, the host institution usually assign you certain hospitals for medical treatment and most of the medical expenses are covered by the medical insurance provided by the host institution. The coverage may include expenses on registration, house calls, dentures, cosmetic surgery, eyeglasses, hospital board and dietary supplements.

Prescription or Over-the-counter Medicines

In large cities it is easy to find pharmacies for common medicine. When you are traveling in villages or smaller cities, it may not be so easy to find pharmacies that provide services in your mother language. Thus it is suggested to take with you a supply of medicines that you think you might need.

In most hospitals where you receive medical care, an affiliated pharmacy or drug store to the hospital is usually available. Due to the language barrier, we suggest that you obtain your medicines prescription directly from your physician. For over-the-counter drugs or Chinese traditional medicine, find a reliable pharmacy, in which drug instruction is labeled appropriately and supplying information is provided in your language or English. Finally, ask your Chinese friends for help.