Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Peking Union Medical College 

Took the subway to Dongdan today to see a doctor at the International Clinic at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. I have been dealing with an inflammation of some kind on my foot since last summer. I wasn't sure what it was, so I wasn't giving it any treatment, since it didn't really hurt; it just looked red. But when it didn't go away, I started to apply a fungicide, even though I didn't think a fungus would develop on that part of my foot. Athlete's foot usually develops between your toes, not on the ball of your foot. When the fungicide didn't seem to work, I went to the clinic and got a drip. No real change. I decided to go back to the fungicide, which seemed to be better than nothing, but not really effecting a fundamental change. So I finally decided to go to the International Clinic at PUMC. The doctor there told me it was neither a fungus nor a bacterial infection. He called it a "sterile inflammation." Something about they way my bones are rubbing or something. It does make sense, actually, because I tend to walk a little sideways on one foot, which may be a little wearing on the ball of my foot. We'll see.

As with many other things in China, it is simply not the case that the more you pay for something, the better it is. There is an international hospital in Beijing, for all the foreign businessmen with high dollar foreign expat benefits packages. The doctors there may be OK, but not necessarily exceptional just because they charge more money. But they are foreigners, and so foreigners feel comfortable going to them.

The International Clinic at PUMC is certainly more expensive that an average Chinese hospital. I paid 150 RMB (about 25 US dollars) just for the doctor's visit. That's astronomical by Chinese standards, but a whole lot less than what you would pay at the international hospital. And the physicians there at the clinic speak English. Ordinarily, to get the benefit of lower medical costs in China, you need to be proficient in Mandarin. The International Clinic at PUMC is a compromise, I guess. More expensive that ordinary Chinese hospitals, but cheaper than the foreign hospital, and still able to accommodate foreigners who don't speak Chinese.

If the doc turns out to be right, I will have wasted too much money on fungicide over the past few months, except that it taught me that rubbing some sort of cream on it does make it better. So the fungicidal cream didn't hurt anything, but it's expensive Vaseline.

The Peking Union Medical College was founded in the early years of the 20th Century by a union of Christian mission boards, and taken over by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1915. It is one of the many residual effects of Christian missionary activity that began in the middle of the 19th Century in China.

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