Monday, December 8, 2008 ;
9:43 PM
Went to the hospital today for ds2's ear infection.

It was really an experience. Before I describe it, let me say that every place has its strengths and beauty. When I describe a weakness, I do not intend to say the whole place is not ideal. This place has its beautiful and good parts too.

To be fair, I will first talk about the hospital and then I will talk about something I admire about this place.

This morning at 9am, H brought me and ds2 to a University Hospital in the University district. It has a children's outpatient section. When we arrived, we circled around the carpark for a long time but could not find a lot, so we had to park outside along the main road and walk in. With a sick child and in the winter.

When we squeezed into the children's outpatient section, we were greeted with a scene which made me instinctively want to grab ds2 and leave. In a very small area, many many adults with kids were cramped and crowded together. All the few seats were taken, lots were standing. Many were waiting for their turn to be examined by the nurse. The place was not ventilated.

I saw some kids being treated as they waited to see the doctor. An asthmatic kid was puffing with a nebuliser (sp?). Many were coughing away. Some had wounds to the head/ arm etc. Some were vomitting and one defaecated.

As all those who have lived in China before know, kids here are toilet trained very early, before they are 1yr old. This is thanks to what they let the kids wear, even when they go to high class shopping areas. Pants with a huge slit in the middle to expose the bum and whatever pee parts a boy or girl has. There are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of pants. I shall maybe discuss this in another post, because I want to be objective.

So, with this kind of pants, all the kids who are very sick with diarrhoea, cannot be expected to control themselves. This child just let go onto his dad. So the dad was frantically flinging bits of faeces onto the floor. He tried to clean his jeans as best as he could.

H asked me, "Err, you want to wait here, or shall we go?"
"Ok, let's go."

We left without registering. Anyway, it could take a long time to get to our turn to register.

In the car, we discussed our options. Go home, or try another place. I called up a Korean mom to ask if Koreans bring their kids anywhere that's not a local hospital. Cos they don;t have clinics here, so all sick kids have to be brought to the hospital, that's why hospitals are so crowded.

She said she didn't know of any.

The SOS clinic for expats at the Sheraton where we brought ds2 before for rashes was eliminated cos they don't allow outpatients on the 2nd visit unless we bought their insurance plan and it is an exorbitant charge.

H suggested the Tianjin Children's Hospital. It is where most people bring their kids. We didn't try that one first because it is always very crowded.

I'll post a pic of the queue of cars and people after I get the photos downloaded.

True enough, there were 3 lanes of cars lined up to get into the carpark of the hospital and the lanes were jammed up far far away. If we were to join the car queue, we'd end up waiting a whole day, as another mom warned us. She brought her daughter before and waited the whole day to see the doctor.

So H parked along the main road again and we literally ran in. This time, we had to cross a very busy road, and then hop over a road divider/ barrier. I did this while carrying a very heavy and "fat" (winter jacket and all) ds2, so I felt very proud of myself after running past so many lanes of whizzing cars.

Ah, this place is specially for kids, so it was more spacious. At least there was a hall for queues and the ceilings were higher, so I didn't feel suffocated.

However, we had to queue to register and pay a fee of 1 yuan for registration, 3 yuan for consultation (we chose normal doctor cos it would be the fastest queue). Consultants commanded a fee of 13 yuan and had a queue that was so long, it'd be evening before we could see them. Everyone wanted the most senior doc for their kids.

Fortunately H queued for me because there was no obvious queue line for this queue and I was carrying ds2, and it was impossible to squeeze with others to the front.

After that, I realised why so many adults accompanied each child to the hospital. It is essential. As one grandma queued to register for the child, the grandpa carried him. The father rushed to a toy vendor (I will post pics of vendors later) to buy a light-spinning, sound-blaring toy for the boy. The mother fed the boy with snacks while the boy rested on the grandpa's shoulder. Another grandma or aunt carried all the bags and winter jackets for the whole family.

ds2 was the only one with 1 mom with him. Really thankful H came with us. It would have been really impossible without her.

After paying that fee, we had to move upstairs to the ENT dept. This queue was the longest. Our queue number was far behind, so H told me to find somewhere to sit while she stayed near the place where they would call out our number. It was a narrow doorway where there were no seats and lots of people crowded around to hear their numbers.

Since there was a long wait ahead, I pulled ds2 all around that level, looking around at different depts and watching others.

It was crowded everywhere. Outside the female toilet, we could see everyone inside because the door was ajar. Parents were letting their sons pee while standing on the sink counter top. They peed into the sinks. Pee splattered everywhere. There was urine all over the floor. The stench emanated out to where I was, it was unbearable. We quickly walked further.

I saw a child vomit onto the floor. The mom saw a mop nearby and mopped it up, since no staff could be seen. She left the mop where it was originally, leaning on the wall in the common corridor. Curious about this mop, ds2 and I stayed put and watched people around there, and stared at the now obviously soiled mop.

New kids came along with their 2-6 adult helpers. They sat on the floor near the mop, playing on the floor. One of the adults bought the McDonalds' hot fudge sundae for the kid, and the kid split it. Ah, the handy mop! It was used to mop up the sundae. (Yes McDonalds is just outside the hospital.)

Interesting positioning of the mop. Staff must have felt that it would be well-utilised there. I just wonder whether it gets washed at the end of the day.

After wandering a bit, ds2 was tired. I found an area with a TV screen and a seat was available so I sat there with ds2 on my lap. I think we waited for an hour? Not sure, since I wasn't wearing a watch. I watched many many bare bums of kids around me for the whole hour.

I confirmed that the kind of pants came in all kinds of designs and sizes up to 3 yrs old. There were denim kinds, the waterproof kinds with inner fleece lining, corduroy, lycra and cotton kinds. There were Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Princess cartoons, sometimes Ultraman or Power Rangers. All kinds of colours too. I wonder where they buy these though, never seen them being sold. I should buy one as a souvenir.

A very obvious advantage it conferred on the child wearing it is:
Since squat toilets are the norm here, it allows the child to squat easily. My kids have tried using the squat toilets and I understood how difficult it is, if you wear normal pants. Adults have long enough legs to straddle the oval hole and squat to do your business. Kids have short legs. After my kids pull their pants down, they are unable to stretch their legs open wide enough to straddle the oval hole fully. They can't even squat cos their legs are stretched so far apart already.

Those engineered pants don't need to be pulled down. The child just straddles the oval hole, squat easily and voila, the slit opens up itself, and you can do whatever you want into the hole and get up and leave. No fear of the pants' hem touching the wet ground too.

Our whole family has already gotten into the habit of testing our bladders' limit when we are out, so we don't face the problem of using toilets in public anymore. We just rush home to do it.

Oh, I digressed.

Finally H came to say there are 4 more in front of us, so we walked slowly to the narrow doorway.

As we waited there, a very restless boy was being cranky and whiny, so his dad and uncle went out, promising to buy him a toy. His mom and aunt and grandma remained with him. The dad and uncle gave me a fright when they returned.

Both of them wore black, and they returned with a lifesized M16 rifle and the dad was holding it like he was a professional shooter? They strolled down the corridor towards our narrow doorway with a menacing look. For once, I thought it was a terrorist attack, and they were going to shoot down the hospital. I had a real scare and had instinctively drawn ds2 towards me.

Aiyah, they were actually acting for the boy's benefit and they had bought the huge rifle for him! They started putting in the batteries and I was given a headache with the shooting sounds after that. It did fascinate ds2 though, so I tolerated it.

Finally, ds2's name was called so we entered the door. Within it was a small room. There was another mini-queue to see the doctor. The patients ahead of us were treated openly. Nothing was a secret here, you have no privacy. I find it a little stressful.

I have heard that women still labor and birth together here. So hubbies are not allowed in the birthing room. If you are a foreigner, you could pay a lot more extra and get a VIP room where you can birth alone with your hubby.

When it was ds2's turn to sit on the chair, he cried, so I sat with him. It was like a dentist's chair and the doctor wore a magnifying glass on one eye. He asked what's the problem and I said his ear ached.

He checked both ears in 2 sec and said yes, there is an infection. Asked about his history a little, and then gave me a prescription. It was over in less than 2 min. I don't blame him. He has so many patients to see, and each paid only 3 yuan (60cents) to see him.

Now we proceeded to queue to pay. H queued for me. She was great in translating a lot of medical terms for me too. She did her degree in Taiwan, and that helped so much.

Then another queue for the medicines.

The antibiotics (Amoxicillin), anti-histamine granules, ear drops and nose drops cost me 165 yuan.

Then we left the hospital. Upon reaching the car, we realised H received a traffic summons! The fine cost 20 yuan, so she said it is worth it since we saved so much time by not entering the huge jam in the hospital carpark.

I feel it was an eye-opener. However, I wouldn't like to be at the hospital in an emergency. Today, I can afford to wait. ds2 was not cranky, he was quiet throughout, didn't move much and very cooperative. What if he hadn't been? What if H was not with me? I don't relish another visit. So I will follow a friend's advice.

Before coming, he said, "You'd better stock up on antibiotics and all common medicines." If I had, maybe I need not visit the hospital for these non-emergencies. I have half the mind to buy an otoscope to check the kids' ears myself too. I saw it doesn't cost much on amazon.com.

Overall, the cost is very low. That is a huge plus point. If only they would allow the presence of clinics. If doctors were allowed to operate independently, a lot of us wouldn't mind paying a little more to have a shorter wait time and having a shorter distance to travel. Hospitals should be for emergencies and serious illnesses. It should not be so packed with common cold cases that real emergencies have trouble getting in and being seen.

H and Dh said the same thing to me separately today. "Why didn't you choose to study medicine last time?"

To H, I asked her back, "If I did, I probably would find it hard to quit and become a SAHM. Studying to be a doctor is a long and expensive process and it becomes like a duty to give back to society since the medical studies are so heavily subsidised. I'd always wanted to be a SAHM."

To Dh. I just laughed. I know he just asked for fun. He says if I was a medical doctor, we'd be self sufficient everywhere we go. I wouldn't have met him in NIE had I chosen to do medicine. :-)

And now, for the admiration I have for the local people. It's freezing cold now and they still carry on their bicycle riding. All the womenfolk and kids too. I take my hat off because they will cycle for long distances too. I think it is environmentally friendly, physically healthy, and it shows how resilient they are.

Whether rain or shine, whether windy or snowing, they still ride. I have now observed the full range of clothes and gear my ayi has for her cycling. Since summer till now. Now, of course, she arrives at my place with hat, face mask, gloves, winter jacket, wind and waterproof pants, high shoes and all. She'll take off piece by piece after entering and change into a pair of comfy pants that she leaves at my place. She has a turtleneck sweater under the huge jacket and she works in that.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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