How I Survived a Visit to a Chinese Hospital
I am not a prima donna. If I were I would have sent that warm salad I was served on Saturday night back to the kitchen. Instead I ate it and got food poisoning and have been eating a B.R.A.T. (bread, rice, apples, tea) diet since. I didn’t send my warm Greek salad back to the kitchen because I didn’t want to hear those words come from my husband, “You are never happy with what you order.” But I took one for the team (me, myself and I), and for the first time in four years, I ended up at the International Clinic with food poisoning.
To enter the International Clinic, you must drive through security, where you are greeted by a guard on both sides of the car blowing smoke or garlic breath into the car, and then spitting up phlegm. You get out of the car in the parking lot at your own risk. Drivers are honking their horns at you because you are in their way trying to get into the hospital. Crossing guards are talking on their cell phones, smoking cigarettes, or spitting, and watching you fear for your life while trying to cross the street. Then you walk into the lobby, which wreaks of urinals.
This is great for someone with an upset stomach. Also in the lobby there is an open bathroom door policy for everyone to use, along with a very long row of ATMS and cashiers. There are more cashiers than there are patients.
On our visit, we made it to the fourth floor, where we were promptly told to pay before I spoke to a doctor. Still, it was only $3.50 (21 R.M.B.). Dr. Zhang, who would be treating me, was around 22 years old. He diagnosed my symptoms from a computer, asked me to lie down on the soiled sheets and take my shoes off.
He poked my stomach a few times and asked me if it hurt. I answered yes and no. He sent me off to the ladies room for a stool sample with rubber gloves and a vial smaller than my pinky. They told me it would be easier if I used the non-western toilet for gathering samples of stool out of the toilet. I thanked them and told them I preferred the western toilet.
I waited in line and noticed the custodial engineer had exited after being in the bathroom for awhile. Yet, the bathroom was still dirty and there was no toilet paper. Here’s how my conversation with the nurse went:
Me: “Excuse me, may I have some toilet paper, please?”
Nurse: “I am sorry but the client before you (the custodial engineer) must have used it all.”
Me: “Okay. May I please have some now?”
Nurse: “Sorry but you have to pay for your sample first.”
Me: “I really need to wash my hands and would like some toilet paper before I pay.”
Nurse: “The person before you must have used it all. You need to pay now. It is hospital policy.”
Me: “I will not pay until I wash my hands, and I will not put up with your bureaucratic bullsh**. ” (I said this in English, and she seemed to understand.
Nurse: “You said a dirty word. I will not have you speak dirty words to me.”
Me: “I need to wash my hands. I need toilet paper. How is that for clean words?”
She was flustered. I was nearly in tears and disgusted that I hadn’t washed yet. Let me remind you that they had asked me for this sample. Visualize the germs that had already left the bathroom. She got her supervisor. I basically had the same conversation with her supervisor. She reassured me that they are not there just to collect money. But I still needed to pay right then.
Finally, she gave in to my rants. She called the custodial who supposedly used the last of the toilet paper. The two nurses and the custodial found the roll of toilet paper but they did not know how to insert the spool into the cannister. They told me to use the men’s urinal, because it had toilet paper. I grabbed the toilet paper and went back to the ladies room.
I walked out to the nurses’ station and paid the $10. They asked for my sample. I told them it was in the bathroom, but they wanted me to go and get the vial. I refused to go back to the bathroom and get it. After all, there was a table with a small dish that had a sign on it reading “place samples here.” So I’d placed it there.
They called the custodial to go get the sample. I sat back down at the doctor’s desk and he told me what I already knew–I had food poisoning. He wrote three prescriptions and then said “first pay.” Then he reassured me there was no refund on the first prescriptions. If the sample came back positive, he would have to write me other prescriptions, and I would have to pay for other drugs as well. He wanted to make that clear.
The total amount was $12. We paid first and then we waited.
Total visit cost $32.00, with the prescriptions included.
I am well aware and sensitive to what is going on in the world today. Some countries can’t afford toilet paper or medical care. But those countries are not in line to be the next super power.
I was appalled by the lack of soap in the hospital’s bathroom, as well as the spitting, smoking, and unsanitary conditions in the hospital–all of which could clearly spread disease.
Photo credit: Flickr