TAIZHOU, China- It is with trepidation that many Westerners approach hospitals in China. Rumors, tales, and news reports of nurses reusing hypodermic needles, hospital related Hepatitis C outbreaks, unsanitary conditions, a lackadaisical approach to infectious disease, and the lack of privacy in Chinese hospitals abound. But going to the public hospital is exactly what a foreigner must do stay in China. For those seeking to work or study in this country a certificate of health must be submitted before a residence permit can be issued, and in order to get this certificate a physical examination is needed.
Generally, these medical exams need to be performed in China. It is said that this physical done abroad, and some foreign residents in China have done this successfully, but there is an entire slew of bureaucratic particulars that must be followed to the letter — and many who have tried to take this route just found that they needed to get the exam done a second time upon arrival in China. One of my wife’s coworkers paid over 200 pounds to get her physical done in Hong Kong just to find that she would need to get the exact same exam done for a second time in Taizhou, and the same thing happened to a pair of her English coworkers who got their health exam done in the UK.
On top of this, getting an ultrasound, a chest X-ray, blood tests, and an EKG done for travel purposes (read: not covered by health insurance) would prove very, very expensive in the USA — my country of origin. A big risk to say the least, as there would be a good chance that China wouldn’t accept the foreign physical anyway.
But I stand here to say that there is really nothing to worry about when getting this physical exam done in China. The standards of medical care vary greatly depending on what part of the country you’re in, what hospital you go to, etc . . . but, generally speaking, Westerners are treated as VIP patients when in the care of the Chinese medical system — or at least this has always been my experience. What I just experienced getting my residence permit physical examination in Taizhou keeps in line with this: there was truly nothing for me to worry about.
Film of the Physical Examination for a Residence Permit in China
The above video shows my family’s experience of the dreaded Chinese medical exam. The only problem was that there was truly nothing to dread — though there were still a few humorous incidents caught on film. If you are an email subscriber you need to click over to read this article on the webpage in order to watch the video.
The examination procedure
If you are in China for work purposes your employer should provide you with a representative to walk you through the process. If they don’t and your worried about this check up, request that they send someone with you or at least a translator if you don’t speak Mandarin.
1. Register at the front desk of the hospital or clinic.
2. Pay. The cost can be anywhere from 500 to 700 RMB (80-120 USD). If you’re employed in China your employer should cover this expense.
3. Fill out paperwork and get the examination forms.
4. Do the exam circuit. You generally need to get your blood pressure taken, an ultrasound, height and weight checked, complete a vision screening, get an EKG (heart check), a chest X-ray, and a blood test. Make sure the doctors and nurses fill out the forms for each test in full and signs off on them. The travel clinic that we were at was set up in a rather obvious way — we just had to go from door to door and get our checks done. But if you’re at a general hospital and need help finding your way around ask for assistance — or just stumble around looking lost and someone will be bound to help you out.
5. Submit forms. If there was something wrong with you that came up in the exams a doctor will proscribe treatment.
6. Collect receipt and wait three or so days for your bloodwork results to come back.
7. If all is clear you will be given a certificate of health that you can submit for your residence permit. If something is wrong you will either be given treatment or quarantined and expelled from the country.
The China medical check up conclusion
Basically, the only medical problems that they will really eject a foreigner from China for is a major heart condition or an infectious disease like HIV. I do not know exactly what the quarantine and expulsion process consists of.
As you can see from the above video, this examination procedure was not so bad. Everything was clean (enough) and the nurse who took my blood even put on new latex gloves at my request. There was no issue over whether or not the hypodermic needles were new: there was a pile of factory sealed packages full of single use needles in plain sight that the nurse drew from. On top of that, children under 12 years old generally do not need to submit to the medical exam — which is a big breath of relief for parents who brought their kids to China with them. To be honest, I was seriously impressed by my experience of getting my certificate of health checkup and the Tiazhou branch of the Jiangsu travel clinic — it was nothing like a visit to the general ward of a standard Chinese hospital — and the whole deal was truly nothing to worry about.
Be sure to watch the above video for a couple good laughs.