This last week has been a week of worry because I inherited the worry gene from my mother).
Last week I had a few days vacation and on one of the days my wife had booked me into a local health center for a thorough health checkup. Anybody who has lived and worked in China will be able to relate to the health check process as you need to undergo a government approved health check to obtain your residence and work permit.
Basically you get ushered from room to room and in each room you experience a different test. It's a bit like a production line! Having said that it seems to work incredibly well considering the volume of people.
The tests you get depend on what you pay for, and one of mine was an ultrasound to check some internal organs. After checking my liver etc the nurse proceeded to check my neck, but promptly stopped because she realised I had not paid for that particular check, however she did say she saw something and I should go to see my doctor! Panic!
Once the health check was over my wife and I headed to Shanghai East Hospital to see a doctor and find out what was wrong. Another ultrasound was done and the doctor informed us that I had some Thyroid nodules one of which was large enough for him to be concerned that it could be cancer…yes that 'C' word nobody wishes to hear come from a doctors' mouth.
So before I knew it I was handing over lots of cash to the hospital for further blood tests and within a few days I was being pumped full of iodine with my neck stuck inside a CT scanner.
By this time I was really not sleeping and probably made the biggest mistake of all….use the Internet for self diagnosis! Apparently I could have been suffering almost every ailment known to man, or I could be healthy, or soon be having a cancerous thyroid cut out of my neck. The Internet is not good when it comes to this sort of thing! Just don’t do it!
A couple of days later I get called to the hospital to discuss the CT scan results with the Doctor and fortunately there was nothing to be concerned about, no cancer just a slightly swollen thyroid that could be attributed to the ridiculously long hours I have been working recently in South Korea. The doctor prescribed rest for the remainder of the week! What a top bloke!
Now that I had calmed down and started to think about the last few days I realised how different healthcare is around the world. Having lived in the UK, USA and now China I still am not sure which system is better and which offers the best care.
In the USA I was fortunate enough to have good insurance through my employer but I was skeptical about how doctors prescribed medication, they often had bags of samples that the big pharma reps had dropped off. Was I being prescribed the best medication or was I being given the one that the doctor got the best kick back? I guess I will never know. The only issue I had was where my insurance company refused to pay out for some blood tests that should have been covered. They blamed the doctor for filling in the paperwork incorrectly but my doctor said they had filled it in correctly. Only when I was threatened with the debt collectors knocking on my door I paid up out of my hard earned cash. So much for insurance!
In the UK healthcare is free to all, rich or poor and throughout my life I have been pleased with the care I have received. That being said, I have no idea how I would go about getting a thorough health check similar to the one I had last week, so if I did have a major problem then perhaps it would not get treated until I had other symptoms which by then it could bet too late.
Now let's tackle China. It seems if you have money or a good job then healthcare you can get, if you are one of the millions of poorer people then you are out of luck which is simply heartbreaking. I am also a little skeptical whether doctors recommend tests because they are 100% required or if they think I'm a foreigner and they can scare me a little to extract a bit more cash out of me…either way, I may now be out of pocket for the cost of a iPad or two but aleast I can sleep!