Living in China,  My Life

One Hospital In Guangzhou And How I Ended up In There

Incredibly painful. It started on Sunday 27th when I accidentally spilled a bowl of hot water to my skin. I ran to the shower, opened the door of my room and started shouting in all the three languages I know. Three or four paramedics came but none of them wanted to come inside take a look. Why? Because I was naked. My classmate had to grab one of them by the arm and pull him inside.

Then I found out there wasn’t any medicine in the ambulance. At this point I was screaming and crying as never before. So my classmate had to go to the convenience store to buy seven large bottles of cold water. The paramedics didn’t seem to like that my classmates were pouring the water over me all the way to the hospital. Sure in this scale of burns there’s a risk of hypothermia when using too much cold water, but I felt there’s a risk of dying just because of the unbelievable pain I was feeling.

In the hospital they were kind enough to give me one injection and put me on a drop. Then they started asking money. Surely I didn’t have any. One of my classmates had pants but not shoes. The other one was luckily carrying her bank card and she paid the required 500 CNY (58 euros). Only after that the doctors and nurses started really treating me.

Maybe because of my pretty white skin, if you forget the burn, I got my own room and privacy. The first day cost about 2000 (230e) and days after that almost 1000 (116e) every day. I was on a drop all the time except when I was sleeping. They sprayed medicine to my skin every two or three hours. From the third day onwards I could walk few times a day but in a really odd way because my skin was too tight and hurting.

The nurses run the unit and the doctor came every morning to check the patients. Besides nurses there are these older women, we call them a’yi, who are there to help you to wash, use the toilet and that kind of things. If you have money to pay them. If not, and maybe in any case, it is better to have a friend or family member to help you. You get nothing for free. No water, food, toilet paper, nothing. Everyday they give you lots of receipts to show how much money you have used.

In a week they get my skin extra dry and smelly. I have never missed home so much. I havet never been that angry and hopeless. I left the hospital on Tuesday the 6th and I could barely walk outside to the taxi. It took me a long time to climb up the stairs to the fourth floor. And there I was, back to the campus without much advice or medicine from the doctor.

Yesterday I searched the net and got really worried about my skin burn. I decided to go to a western clinic, to speak with a doctor I could actually understand. (In the hospital I met one doctor who could speak little bit English.) At the clinic they were almost terrified because of the condition of my skin. They ordered me to get a proper shower (doctor in the hospital had forbidden this) and gave me three kinds of lotions to use many times a day. They were also amazed that I wasn’t eating any antibiotics yet.

I don’t have much trust to the Guangdong NO. 2 Provincial People’s Hospital and the experience left a doubt to enter any Chinese hospital again. What if someone doesn’t have any money? How close to death you have to be that they treat first and ask the money later?


  • Justin Liu

    That sounds genuinely terrifying. A major burn in a dirty hospital with no anti-biotics.How the heck did you burn yourself that badly?

    Good luck studying Chinese by the way, I’m hoping to do the same after my last year of university.


  • Sara

    Justin, It was absolutely terrible. I accidently poured a bowl of hot water to my skin. And the wrong treatment in the hospital made it worse. Luckily it has healed very well now after correct medicine and lotions.

    Good luck with your studies too! Chinese is the most interesting language I know :)


  • Finlanren

    Well, in our home country, Finland the hospitals aren’t perfect. I carried my gf into one, she was in so much pain that she could not walk, talk etc. not even open the car door. Yet the nurses would not hear me or do anything or even start prepare to get anything ready before they got her social security number and had finished checking adress details etc. that took ages, there were many questions just so that they could send a bill afterwards to us. The adress had been confirmed less than a month ago and we had a history of all hospital bills paid on time, but they just did not give any emergency treatment before the papers had been filled. After that they at least helped me to carry her to the other end of the hospital by putting her on a wheel chair but weren’t exactly efficient. Yet, I am sorry to hear about your painful experience

    At least China has got Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors and hospitals. I have first-hand breath taking experience about it. Might be difficult to find an English speaking doctor though, because those doctors get their language training in tradiotional Chinese, which is like another language, so they usually aren’t trilingual at all.


    Sara Reply:

    Finlanren, thank you for leaving a comment! I have to say I don’t have too much experience with hospitals in Finland. Thank you for telling your story, it’s a good reminder that there are things that need improvement in Finland too. I don’t have experience with traditional Chinese medicine either and I have to say I’m little bit sceptic, but I would be willing to try in some cases.


    Finlanren Reply:

    yeah, to give you a positive vibe about Chinese doctors, I just remembered how my gf got her wisdom tooth pulled out in Beijing. She searched online who is the one of the best doctors available, and this person got her wisdom tooth out without her feeling any pain and without anasthesia. It is marvellous, apparently it’s all about the technique. On other occasssions with a dentist her gum has been very sensitive to pain. I wonder who in Finland could even come close to such a feat.

    So in China you get quality, but you have to be prepared to queue in line for hours, as you cannot just call and make a reservation. Once on a different matter, I was queuing for her outside the hospital from 3AM till 8AM, so we could see a doctor that day, and it was a cold night in January. And the queue was long, I was certainly not the first person in that queue. However, after all that queuing, the hospital doors flung open at 8AM and a stampede began, it did not matter so much anymore who had been waiting in line for the longest night in their lives. But I managed it somewow and it went well.

    At least the doctors aren’t complete idiots in China, they actually know something, unlike many of their collegues in Belfast. Here doctors ask, what do you think is causing the illness, and start reading their doctor’s guidebook in front of you, almost wondering out loud what an earth could the bloody cause, and they openly admit they don’t have a clue too. This happened to a friend of mine, who just had a hurt knee for months and went to see a doctor. And in Finland, the doctors use Metamizole (, which is not used in most developed countries anymore except for horses. Now that I’m on a roll here, I’d also like to mention that in Finland an older male doctor might tell your gf that you can stop using the birth control pill anytime, and when you go tell another doctor that it caused terrible problems, bleeding for 15 days and dizziness and general feeling of dying, finally stopped by medication, the doctor said, oh no, did he say that, oh well, that is wrong in a tone that suggest it was not the first mistake this doctor had made and they were well-awere of it.

    To conclude with, doctors fuck you up in all the countries of the world, there is no perfect place. However, China is not so bad as far as I know. Too bad they don’t speak English, nor do many Finnish doctors in any level that can be understood by a non-Finn, mainly because of pronunciation.


  • Sean

    I think in many cases they would not treat you. Growing up in Guangzhou, I’ve heard many horrible stories about patients left dying because they don’t have money to pay for their treatments. Well, that was almost 14 years ago. I have not been back since so maybe things have changed? Yet, I am not confident that’s the case after my own experience with the hospital. Capitalism has brought good changes to China, but there are also the terrible ones.


    Sara Reply:

    The hospital experience was one reason that I started thinking where I want to live when I graduate. And more importantly where I want to live if I have children. I can only imagine how hard it is for poor Chinese people here that can’t afford to see a doctor if they are ill. Or can’t be treated in a hospital if they have an accident. It’s terrible.


  • Rosalie Davis

    Sorry to hear about your experience! I can relate.

    Yes, you definitely need to pay up front and yes, those receipts just keep piling up! I think this is standard procedure and Chinese people expect it. I have been to the hospital as well, the most serious visit was when I needed an appendectomy. My stay and treatment wasn’t nearly as costly as yours in Guangzhou–I am shocked at the price for your room (mine was 45 rmb/day in 2010 and my total bill was about 4500 rmb for the stay, surgery, and meds). I did share my room with two other patients. My husband stayed with me almost the entire time and if he wasn’t there, a member of his family was. Again, Chinese people expect this. I think you need to have a friend or relative with you because the nurses and doctors don’t look after patients as carefully as they might in most western countries. In fact, when I came out of surgery my husband was told to keep a close eye on me because they may have given me to much anesthetic!  

    I really think your post is eye-opening and helpful for foreigners living in China. If they have a medical emergency, they really need a plan–money set aside as well as a caretaker in mind.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I really hope that people planning on moving to China can get help from our experiences. It can be a shock to visit a Chinese hospital if one have never heard how they work before.

    Luckily you had your relatives or husband to take care of you.


  • sirius

    Some traditional old Chinese medicines are really very talent in delling with disease.And sometimes their therapy are quite cheap.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I would love to hear about success stories of Chinese medicine for Western patients!


    sirius Reply:

    Well,my father broke his clavicle(comminuted fracture) last year and was sent immediately to an old Chinese medicine who lived in a housing estate .The doctor just pushed his bones to right position and fastened it with bandages.After that,he told my father to take a traditiomal prescription which is quite cheap.However,it contents some strange things,such as pyrite,boleny(地必虫),despite most parts of the prescription are plants.I myself also drunk a lot of Chinese herbal medicine when I was young and suffered from asthma,otitis media,and a fracture on the leg.However,less and less people are going to study the traditional ways of medical, for it takes too much time,and also for the slender income.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for sharing!

    I’ve also tried Chinese herbal medicine when I hurt my leg a year ago. It was really hard to drink those big cupfuls of medicine. I’m not even sure if the medicine helped or not, it could have been because of the bed rest. When I started moving again, the pain came back and I went to an international clinic.


  • Robert Budzul

    Western medicine is based on research and clinical trials. Anything within Chinese medicine that is proved to work simply becomes part of western medicine. Go to a Chinese medicine doctor and the chances are the first thing he’ll do is offer you a cigarette! How’s that for medicine?


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