Posted on Apr 11, 2008 by Sergio Ulloa
Xiamen is one of the oldest trading ports in China. First used by Europeans in 1541, it was the primary source of Chinese tea to the west. When China went through a period of isolation it was Xiamen, along with 4 other major cities in China, which reopened the country with the Treaty of Nanjing following the Opium wars in 1842. All of this has contributed to the global feel of the city and is one of the reasons that in this new age of Chinese prosperity more and more foreign nationals are choosing to relocate to Xiamen on a permanent basis as expatriates.
One of the major concerns facing many individuals who have newly arrived in Xiamen is in regards to the state of healthcare in the city. As a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Xiamen has some major differences from the rest of the PRC, mainly with regards to the standard of living and the way that the local economy works, however the healthcare system in the city works along very similar lines to the system of care throughout the rest of the country with only a few minor differences.
Public health is a major concern in China. Since the founding of the People's Republic the provision of quality healthcare to all citizens has been a major concern for the government. The main emphasis of the Chinese healthcare system has always been towards preventative care, and this is no different in Xiamen. With stress being placed on adequate sewage services and primary care points, the Xiamen healthcare service aims to prevent disease before it starts. Sanitation, hygiene, and the irradiation of the four major Chinese 'pests' (mosquitoes, rats, flies, and sparrows) have all contributed the health of the Xiamen population as it exists today.
Despite a number of failed public health initiatives, including the unsuccessful 'barefoot doctor' scheme, many of China's major cities have managed to provide healthcare services on par with a majority of 1st world countries. In Xiamen, partly due to its status as an SEZ and the fact that so many expatriates reside there year round, the city has realized the development of a number of VIP medical institutions, known colloquially as gaogan binfang. While these 'VIP' hospitals and medical clinics do not typically offer services that are easily affordable by many Xiamen residents, they will provide the services and treatments demanded by expatriates throughout the city, although at a much higher cost than any of the cities many public hospitals.
Chinese hospitals are all ranked based on the quality of treatment and the types of services that they provide. The ranking system will assign a number (1 - 3) to a medical facility, and under this ranking a hospital or clinic with the number 3 attached to it will always offer the best services; a rank of 1 is extremely low, and these facilities may not offer services outside of immediate emergency care. Under this numerical ranking system each hospital will also receive a letter grade of A through C, 3A hospitals will always provide the best medical services while 3C hospitals will still provide good, if slightly limited, care.
Xiamen has over 1000 medical facilities, although not all of these will be able to cater to foreign patients, mainly due to language barriers. In order to resolve this situation Zhongshan Hospital created a special ward specifically targeting foreign nationals with doctors and nurses who are fluent in English and afford patients fast and efficient care. In addition to this the Xiamen Chinese People's Liberation Army Hospital also has an excellent reputation among the Xiamen expatriate community, especially with regards to maternity and dental treatment.
For foreign nationals in China the local healthcare system essentially boils down to finding a medical facility that is trustworthy and able to provide a high standard of care. Some of the better medical facilities in the city catering to expatriate needs are:
201 - 206 Hubin Nan Lu
Email: [email protected]
Xiamen #1 Hospital
Zhenhai Lu, #10 Gujie
Email: [email protected]
Chinese People's Liberation Army Hospital
94 - 96 Wenyuan Lu
Email: [email protected]
Xiamen University Hospital
172 University Road
Outside of these main medical facilities are a number of primary care (out-patient) clinics, and every neighborhood will have a number of doctors providing out-patient services. In addition to this Xiamen is able to provide Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment and there will typically be a traditional 'pharmacist' or practitioner in every district.
Healthcare in China can be a scary proposition to expatriates who have recently arrived in the country; however the country is able to provide world class healthcare services. For anyone arriving in Xiamen, get involved in the community and find the medical facility that is right for you and your loved ones, it could be a more important choice than you realize.