Thursday, October 20, 2005

The state of healthcare

Today i decided to go out and get some medicine as my illness that started on monday had not got any better. Having consulted with my personal physician, I was recommended an antibiotic to buy. So off I headed to a big pharmacy in Wangfujin, where I had bought medicine in the past.

In 2001, when mum and dad came to visit me, we went to this same drug store and found many interesting things on sale - including intravenous chemotherapy drugs - over the counter. At that time we purchased antibiotic courses for very little money or effort!

The shop assistant was very helpful and proffered an eng-chi medical dictionary to check the exact drug name, and we even got as far as to establish the exact dosage and price before the shop assistant realised that, these days, a prescription is needed! (shock horror - drug control?!) This could have been the start of a very long day and lots of hassle. However, all was not lost, as a senior assistant came over and said, in broken english, that she had "a doctor over here". Slightly worried that she had mistranslated, she showed me a grey plastic box, which fortunately turned out to be a videophone. There then followed a 3 minute chat with a Chinese doctor (in Chinese) about my condition, followed by her approval of the drug chosen. The script was faxed over to the pharmacy, I signed it, paid and took my pills. All this (1 week's course of Ciproxin and a consultation) for less than the cost of a single bus ticket from Headington to Oxford (12 Yuan - less than £1).

It's surprising little things like this that make me wonder if China might actually pull it off. Even if it doesn't - what a handy system; and no need for a GP appointment!


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