Posted by: beaufortninja | May 22, 2012

Getting Treatment for an Infection in China

For the last 6 months I’ve been dealing with a persistent infection on the big toe of my left foot that I got from my dress shoes rubbing the skin raw. I eventually stopped wearing them altogether and just wore my sneakers all the time but the damage was done. Since I don’t exactly have the time to chill at home for a week and soak my feet in salt water it never got better, even though I used antibacterial cream and over the counter antibiotics (which I wasn’t even aware was legal). The pain alternated between mildly annoying and mind-shattering pain and so I finally got around to finding a place to get treatment.

I’ve heard a bunch of horror stories from expats and Chinese alike about how bad and expensive medical attention can be here. And the last time I went to the hospital for my wife’s toothache they turned us away without offering any help at all. So as far as I’m concerned, Chinese hospitals aren’t an option. We ended up deciding on United Family Healthcare, an American owned clinic with branches in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin. I had to make the appointment well in advance with staff, most of which are Chinese and have rather impressive English proficiency, and the building was surprisingly easy to find.

My wife joined me to get a small, painful sore on her foot looked at and we filled out our forms in no time. I was surprised to learn that the clinic accepted foreign insurance programs like Blue Cross/Blue Shield and lots of others. Wow! We got turned over to a nice doctor from the states called Dr. Gaynor (LOL!) and after seeing what my problem was she handed me over to this super nice Japanese guy named Dr. Fuji. He then proceeded to make sashimi out of my toe. Turns out the infection had turned into an ingrown toenail so he had to give me a few shots of Novocaine and then got down and dirty with a pair of clamps and some medical scissors to hack away at my nail. I wanted to watch but after I saw a geyser of puss shoot out I thought better of it and leaned back, staring at the ceiling.

In all, there was very little pain except for a few pokes here and there. I went back to the clinic this morning for the doctor to check on the wound and he said it was looking good. No pain for discharge. They gave me some stuff so I can take care of it on my own and I have to go back on Saturday so he can make sure everything is healing properly. Everyone was very nice and it made me feel better knowing I’d get quality care that was up to Western standards. I’m sure Chinese hospitals could have taken care of it too but the last experience where we were turned away has left a bad taste in my mouth.

The first visit, which included 2 appointments, a surgery, antibacterial cream and painkillers, cost about 2,000RMB ($318). The follow up visits were much much cheaper so the whole fiasco will likely end up costing about 2,600RMB which I gladly paid. Anything to get this infection taken care of. It wasn’t fun. Once it’s all healed up we can get back to doing more active and awesome things like traveling to the famous mountains of Guangdong. If you’re in any of the cities I mentioned earlier and you need medical care, then I’d strongly recommend Family United Healthcare if you’ve got the cash for it.


  1. Gross, dude. $318 doesn’t seem bad in terms of how much care you received. If the Chinese wanted the same time of care, though, is the currency exchange rate really out the roof though in terms of how much the average Chinese makes? I assume it’s MUCH different, but by what amount?

    • The average salary in the city might be 2,000-3,000RMB a month. So, while it wasn’t a problem for me to afford it, many working class Chinese would have a hard time paying the bills. However, this was a foreign clinic where many believe the care is better. If you want top quality medical attention then you have to have the money for it here.

  2. So how does healthcare work for expats? Are you covered by your HMO or your employer?

    • It’s a hassle most of the time and the company just gives you the cheapest plan they can legally give you. Don’t expect your company to go out of its way to look after you.

  3. Okay, I am all kinds of moved by this post:

    1. I was eating as began to read it, but when I got to your puss geyser, I was moved to vomit

    2. Idk why I put that one first (I think my gut commanded it), because the first thought that moved me, to confusion, was: why is it that healthcare in Communist countries is not as “free” as they purport? I experienced the same thing in Cuba. What does “free” actually mean in Communism?

    3. I was deeply moved by the fact that you can buy painkillers over the counter. Oh, wait. It was antibiotics. Oh, well. “Free” healthcare + over-the-counter painkillers is probably too “free,” even for Communism… :P

    • Making people vomit is what I do. ;) And as for the communism bit, there’s never been a 100% communist country. Ever. In fact, I’ve found that the most communist countries aren’t even communist.

  4. I experienced that pain once a few years ago. As a rookie, I had money not that much to go into a foreign clinic. So I went to public hospital to rescue my toe. Much more cheaper it was, but I nearly got killed. After paying 400RMB or so, surffering injection, 1/3 of toenail pulling off, I and had to hobble for 4 weeks until my new toenail grew up again.

  5. There are so many OTC antibiotics that you can choose from but as much as possible dont take so many OTC antibiotics because it could lead to antibiotic resitance..

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