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Expats begin to put faith in Chinese local medical services

By Cai Wenjun   (Shanghai Daily)

14:31, October 15, 2012

Dr Teng Guoliang of Shanghai Children's Hospital checks Yutaro Doi of Japan, who had a bout of pneumonia.(Shanghai Daily)

Manami Doi, 41, a Japanese expatriate living in Shanghai, sits by the bed of her two-year-old son Yutaro in a VIP ward of Shanghai Children's Hospital.

The boy, recovering from pneumonia, is preoccupied watching cartoons on television. His mother's thoughts are of relief that he's on the mend.

"The doctors and nurses here have been nice and very kind," said Doi, who has been living in Shanghai for five years. "Their skills are very good, and this environment is comfortable."

Falling ill in a foreign country is the nightmare of every expatriate. Will they get the quality of care they are used to back home? Will they even be able to communicate with doctors treating them?

In Shanghai, home to about 300,000 expats, such anxieties are eased somewhat by the burgeoning number of internationally operated clinics and hospitals, and by the creation of VIP wards in public hospitals.

There are some 2,700 hospitals and medical clinics in the city, and 30 of them have set up special wards catering to foreigners. There are also 20 international hospitals and clinics financed by overseas investment and employing some foreign medical personnel.

Facilities are all fine and well, but a quality care delivery system also requires easy access and personal attention for patients in time of stress.

"Expatriates often do feel that health care in Shanghai is difficult because there are no general physicians like in their own countries," said Peter Liu, CEO of Shanghai Delta Hospital and Clinics, a Sino-US joint venture health facility.

"In the West," he said, "most people have a family GP who acts like a gatekeeper, offering primary care and guiding them through hospital care if needed. There is no similar service in Shanghai, and expatriates don't know which department to go to for help in a local hospital."

Then, too, public hospitals can be crowded and cacophonous, with doctors too busy to give any individual patient much attention.

"Compared with Western hospitals, the process of seeing a doctor and finding services focused on patients lags far behind in China," Liu said. "Patients have to go to different floors for different tests and to pay bills. Doctors who have too many patients have no time to explain diagnoses and treatments carefully."

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