Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Monday, June 21, 2010

Public Health Care: My Experience

So much has been debated recently on the health care issue in America especially when it involves the public option. Because of this I want to share with you my recent encounter with "the public option" as it exists in Hong Kong.

Last Wednesday I developed a pain in my side that kept getting worse and wouldn't go away. Finally I realized I needed to get to an Emergency Room. I hopped on a speed ferry (I live on an Island)and zoomed downtown where I took a taxi ten minutes to Queen Mary Hospital. The ER receptionist asked for my Hong Kong Identity Card. As a resident of HK my trip to the ER would cost me HK$100 (US$ 13).

They then sent me to the Triage station and when I told them that I had a heart stent placed last year they immediately performed and EKG to determine if the pain I had was possibly heart related. It wasn't. I was then given a slip of paper categorizing my priority as semi-urgent. No doubt because of the obvious pain I was in.

My semi-urgent status got me in to see a doctor in about 45 minutes and after a consultation had an x-ray and urinalysis done. I was also given an injection & a pill for the pain. There is nothing like the sweet relief of pain killing drugs when you are in agony .

I had to wait a fair bit as I jumped through various hoops at the different stations. After about 4 hours the doctor suspected a kidney stone but was unsure, so I was admitted into the general ward. I was put in a wheel chair and brought to a hospital room with six beds, 4 of which had other patients. A single flat screen TV was on the wall for everyone to use and as I was the lone Englishman, the default channel was Cantonese. Fortunately I had my iPod Nano with me loaded with music, podcasts, and episodes of 30 Rock!

I was eventually taken for a CT scan which immediately identified the painful culprit; a small 2mm kidney stone making its way from the kidney to the bladder. Think of a small BB traveling through a hair follicle. Ouch!

I was immediately transferred to the ward that deals with this area. Of course it was 11:00 PM by this time and as the nurses wheeled me into my new overnight digs they gave no noise consideration to the 3 sleeping patients in my new room...causing me no little embarrassment.

I was monitored the next day and then finally discharged about 6:00 PM. Now in Hong Kong you have a private option as well as a public. Although I have insurance and could have gone private with much nicer personal care and accommodation, in my pain, I simply went to the closest hospital I could get too...which was a public one. Granted I saw multiple different doctors (whichever one happened to be on duty) and my bed sheets, while clean, had a couple small holes and a faded stain or two. I shared a room with multiple other patients and we shared a single, albeit clean, bathroom. The meals were hardly appealing but my nurse allowed me a quick run to the Starbucks in the hospital lobby where a nice sandwich wrap was available.

But the reality was I had:

* an emergency room visit
* an x-ray
* an EKG
* a urinalysis
* bloodwork
* a CT scan
* a night in the hospital
* a weeks worth of medication at discharge

and the grand total I paid: HK$ 200 (about US$ 26).

Now keep in mind...this is Hong Kong. A territory that is so capitalist it makes the United States look like a socialist Eastern bloc country. This is a city where the national past time is to stand around TV's tuned to the business channel to watch the stock price crawls on the bottom of the screen. Arguments about it being "socialist" don't work here.

So it is a relief to know that in this "capitalist mecca" there is a safety net available to me and my family in the event of an insurance problem...or lack thereof. I think many Americans would welcome that relief as well.


Sammy said...

Yeah for Hong Kong!

Paul said...

Hong Kong's public hospitals are excellent. In many areas (e.g., obstetrics) they are also reservoirs of local expertise, offering care as good as, and sometimes better than, the private hospitals.

Tung & Helen said...

While a lot of people complaint, HK has fine medical people who even risk their life for sick people

Paul said...

Tung's comment reminded me - during the 2003 SARS crisis when doctors and nurses in other countries were avoiding work, in Hong Kong they kept showing up in spite of their fears. True courage under fire!

Bob said...

Interesting. You might have caught the account of my recent kidney stone experience. The procedure I just had was nothing short of gruesome.

Anyway, my doc tells me drink lots of water and put lemon in the water, and try to maintain a low sodium diet. I've had three stones in ten years, the most recent being by far the most painful, and I'm now a believer, totally committed to this regimen. Hope it works.

Sandy said...

The question is what if you had a major illness.would the care be as good?

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