Hints and Tips
I have mentioned in all of the blogs that most of the contracts in China come with Health Insurance. Obviously most, if not all of the part time, illegal, cash in hand work does not come with health insurance.
I guess, like me, most of you will probably Google looking for ex-pat health insurance policies of your own. If you have already done that you know that it’s prohibitively expensive, especially if you are coming to China on a 6000rmb per month contract. A quick look on a comparison site for a male aged 40 provides quotes starting as low as 303rmb ($49) per month for a basic service to 6165rmb ($997) per month for an all singing and dancing service.
I have heard that some people have come to China with ‘Backpacker’ health insurance. Another quick search on Google based on a 40 yr old male and you will find backpacking insurance policies ranging from around £250 to £701 for a years cover.
Personally I am more than happy with the insurance policy provided by my employer, and in general this is there to provide me with emergency care should I need it. For the run of the mill day to day health issues the local hospital is good enough, and cheap enough.
If you are ill, ill enough to want to see a doctor, you need to ask your school to have someone take you. You will be taken to the local hospital, for that is where, surprise surprise, the doctors are. Once there the process is simple. You see a receptionist, tell them what your problem is, they direct you to the room with the type of doctor you need – you do not see a generalist GP. For example, I came down with a urinary infection. I was taken to the hospital, and once there I saw a doctor who ‘specialised’ in urinary problems. I was sent to give blood and urine samples, the results were ready in less than 20 minutes, I saw the doctor again. He prescribed antibiotics and a complementary Chinese herbal medicine. It cost me about £12 (120rmb) I think, if I remember correctly.
After my crash I had a CAT scan, no waiting, it cost £6 (60rmb) I think, I was concussed at that time. Of course my friend was also in hospital with a broken leg. The actual conditions might not have been wonderful but the treatment was good. His NHS doctor, when he went back to the UK to recover, was complementary about the work.
Of course many of the gap year graduates, and others have sampled the Chinese health system after falling off bikes, getting sports injuries and so on, and I have never heard any complaints. I have faith in the Chinese system and do not have any insurance other than that which is linked to my contract.
I have no problems with Chinese dentists either. We, most of the teachers I know, use a Chinese dentist called Lillian. The manager of the bar we used recommended us to her, Lillian was her cousin. When ‘Andy’ came off the back of my bike he landed on his teeth. So his front upper teeth were smashed – as well as breaking his leg. Lillian fixed his front teeth and put temporary caps on them. I believe it cost about 600rmb (£60 approx) they lasted 3 years before they fell out, and needed a more permanent fix.
I have had work done by Lillian with no pain to both my jaw and my wallet – unlike in the UK. Lillian also saved a tooth that dentists in the UK wanted to take out. She put a porcelain crown on it. This cost me 800rmb (£80 approx). She also tells me if it comes off and I lose it she will replace it for half price. I recently saw her because of toothache. It seems my ‘baby teeth’ (we call them wisdom teeth) are on the move. She took an x-ray, and prescribed some antibiotics – it cost me a couple of quid.
So how to find a good dentist or a good hospital? Ask your colleagues for recommendations. Don’t do what a lot of the entitled do, which is, use the local international hospital or the international clinics, which abound, because if you do you will also be paying international prices. The point was made when a doctor from the international hospital in Nanjing who generously looked after ‘Mike’ (re my bike crash – keep up) told him that even the International Hospital used the orthopaedic surgeons in the Chinese hospital he was in because they were the best.
My advice is to bring your favourite over the counter drugs with you in particular bring those which you might use at home to ease a cold or the flu. Remember you will be working in a school – the place will be full of bugs and viruses, especially in the winter. I bring Lemsips – the powders and the day care capsules – these are like gold dust in China, especially if people know you have them and they have the sniffles. I am partial to bringing Anadin Extra for when I have a headache, as these seem to work for me. I bring Ibuprofen, but you can buy this in China. I also bring a codeine based cough medicine – pholcodeine linctus – for when I have a cold/cough that drops onto my chest. I have looked and I can’t find anything similar here, and I know this works for me. Also useful is Olbas Oil for steaming that jammed up head and blocked sinuses – I’ve not seen this in China either.
If you are older I recommend that you have the flu jab here in China. Like the UK you cannot get the jab until late September/October. This is something to do with them having to decide which strain of the flu will be dominant this year I think. It costs 100rmb. When you get here, at first, you will be taken for another medical so your employer can apply for your resident’s visa. This should be the place where you will get the flu jab. Check it out whilst you are there.
If you take regular medication ask your doctor for a big prescription. My doctor told me the biggest he could give me was three months supply. Fortunately the Omeprazole the doctor prescribed for reflux is available over the counter here. Plus after leaving my job in the UK I no longer get stress-induced heartburn – a little bit of beer induced reflux – occasionally.
There is a whole raft of drugs available over the counter here that is only available on prescription in the UK, everything from antibiotics to Viagra if you need it. If you know what drugs your doctor prescribes for you, then the likelihood is that you can get them here. Although I cannot get the migraine medication (Maxalt Melt 10mg oral lyophilisates) the doctor prescribes and the ones I use now are out of date since January 2014 – they still work though, and like my reflux, since I left work I hardly have a migraine now. But this summer I will get another 3 months supply. I also buy Prednisolone, which is the steroid the doctor prescribes for me when I have an infected chest after a cold or flu. So I can get the same antibiotics and the same steroid that my doctor prescribes in the UK over the counter for pennies to be honest and they work. Use the pharmacies on the main streets you will see some of them are chain stores. If you stick to these big stores you will not get fakes.
Interestingly if you go to buy Tylenol– the US flu remedy in China you need to show your passport – something to do with the methamphetamine you can produce from it. Blooming good stuff though if you need to teach through a cold or flu.
Re illegal drugs – they are available, but do you really want to spend time in a Chinese prison? Just say no. Take note: In China, sentencing for drug trafficking could include capital punishment. For example, the seizure of 50 grams or more of heroin or crystal methamphetamine could result in the use of the death penalty by the Government.
It’s not pretty – be warned.
Just as a final note I recently asked my students to write a pros and cons essay about the death penalty – the majority were in favour!