The first thing you should know about local medical services is the emergency call number. You can dial 120 from anywhere. An ambulance will normally arrive in a few minutes but traffic conditions can cause delays.
The ambulance will take you to one of the city emergency centers or the particular hospital you've asked for. There may be one named on your medical insurance.
You will be charged for the service but the price fare won't be high. Much depends on the emergency treatment you've received and the distance from the emergency center to the point you were picked up.
Hospitals for expatriates
Big cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai have hospitals, clinics and dentists established for foreigners. Many of them are a part of local hospitals.
Some can offer a full range of medical services such as operations, check-ups and in-patient facilities while other smaller clinics may simply be able to diagnose the symptoms of minor ailments.
If you wish to see a doctor you can do that by making an appointment by telephone or through an appropriate Website.
Dentists are also available to visitors. You need to be certain that your insurance will cover the charges or you must pay the bill yourself before treatment. Most dentists are partnerships.
If you want to see a foreign doctor, who works for a small clinic, you should make sure they're licensed as foreign doctors must be licensed by local medical authorities.
Your doctor may give you a prescription for you to buy medicine in a drugstore. Go to a drugstore, show the chemist the prescription and you'll be given what you need. Medicines in independent drugstores are often cheaper than those in hospital pharmacies.
Medicines sold in Chinese drugstores may not have their instructions written in English. So you should get instructions from your doctor.
You can also get the medicine from pharmacies in hospitals, but most of the expat hospitals don't have their own pharmacies. Some expat hospitals also have vaccination services, you may get such kind of information from their Websites.
How to see a doctor
Before you go for assistance with medical care you should clarify whether your insurance will cover the service as most expatriate hospitals will charge you similar prices to those in your hometown.
If you've decided to see a doctor in local public hospital that should be alright. Some of them have VIP wards and an appointment system. English is spoken. But if you wish to do what Chinese do you should have an interpreter accompany you as most of the doctors and nurses don't speak English fluently.
You should also be aware that you'll be required to share a room with three or more Chinese patients if you require to remain in hospital.
If you want to do as Chinese do in local public hospitals you should have some basic knowledge such as the procedures and some useful Chinese medical phrases..
(Shanghai Daily November 20, 2006)