Here’s an antidote to the delirium pills that some in the U.S. health care industry want us to swallow during the universal health care debate. The fact is that many countries think that good health care is a right, not a privilege; as a result people don’t have to mortgage their lives when they get sick.
The latest case I’ve come across is a report from a close friend who just back from the central Chinese city of Wuhan — population at least 6 million, 650 miles west of Beijing.
She woke up one day with a painful case of shingles, a nerve disease produced by the chicken pox virus that can lie dormant in the body for years. By the second day, it was clear that she needed to see a doctor. But she had no idea of how the Chinese medical system works, and doesn’t speak Mandarin.
First, she telephoned a doctor in the United States, who confirmed that she did in fact require treatment right away.
Then, with the help of a translator, she went to an outpatient clinic at Wuhan University Hospital. She was examined, diagnosed and treated in less than one hour. She had feared primitive conditions and scant supplies, but encountered an efficient, patient-friendly system. She saw both a dermatologist and an ophthalmologist who worked in a well-organized setting, including computer tracking of each patient. The doctors confirmed the diagnosis of shingles, and they set out a regimen of treatment.
After that, she was straight off to the billing window — the visit with the two doctors totaled 8 Yuan, little more than $1. And then another quick stop at the pharmacy, where she filled four prescriptions. The bill: 136 Yuan, about $17.
She called home to tell a doctor about her treatment; the physician was impressed, and said the medicines prescribed were well chosen, including the latest anti-viral product.
Two weeks later, the medicine was doing the job and she improved every day, still on the road. For those who complain about discussing medical care in a Communist country, the next stop was Japan, where my friend also had quick, efficient and reasonably-priced checkups.
Her husband concludes, “We can learn from our less-developed Asian counterpart and the more modern Japanese system. The care we experienced randomly was quite professional, effective, expedient, endorsed by the U.S. medical personnel we consulted, and inexplicably inexpensive.”
– Peter Eisner