Generally health care in Shanghai is good and facilities continue to improve. Most expats use one of the Western-oriented facilities.
Consult with your doctor at home and your insurance company, as well as with friends and colleagues, in order to determine which facility best serves your family’s needs. Each expatriate community has its own services available locally. The range of these services is generally proportionate to the size of the community.
Shanghai also offers a world-class range of traditional Chinese medical treatments (TCM) that offer an interesting alternative to Western medicine. Whilst your regular doctor may treat these treatments with disdain, many Westerners swear by their effectiveness. One of the most popular and ubiquitous services on offer is massage. Traditional Chinese massage clinics are everywhere and vary greatly in price and quality. Some will have staff that are professionally trained while others will not. Many of these clinics will offer TCM services such as cupping and aroma therapy as well as grooming of hands and feet.
If it is safe to move the injured or sick person, it is usually best to find the fastest way to the hospital on your own, by private car or by taxi. For this reason, carry a card with the name and address of your hospital of choice in both English and Chinese. Ambulance times are slow because Shanghai traffic does not yield to emergency vehicles. An ambulance will merely take you to the nearest hospital, not to the hospital of your choice. To call an ambulance, dial 120. Don’t count on the operator speaking English. It is advisable to learn a few key phrases, particularly your own address and the name of your hospital. Another option is to call United Family Hospital which has 24-hour ER and acute inpatient care, at 2216 3999. You can view our Emergency phone directory here.
Most kinds of medicine can be purchased over the counter in Shanghai, including many that would require a prescription in the West. Nonetheless, bring a prescription from your GP for antibiotics or more serious drugs. There are pharmacies throughout the city, and many are open 24 hours. Do not count on English being spoken; prepare a Chinese translation of the chemical or pharmaceutical you need. Western hospitals have their own pharmacies that carry a much wider selection of Western medicine, but they normally require a doctor’s visit.
The following are recommendations from the American Consulate General Shanghai’s Health Unit on how to better prepare for a safe stay in China:
Ensure that all preexisting medical or dental problems are attended to prior to arrival. Bring copies of medical and immunisation records. If taking routine medication, bring an adequate supply, as many Western medications are not available locally. If applicable, bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and a copy of the prescription. Similarly, prescription medication you need should be brought with you, as not all medication can be found in Shanghai. The law requires import certificates to accompany any medication that you send into the country (via a shipment, for example), although local health professionals say that it is rare for a customs officer to ask for them. Medication that you carry with you does not fall into this category, but you should carry a copy of the prescription to be safe.
Study health insurance plans carefully. Ensure that the insurance covers overseas travel. Medicare, for example, does not cover health costs for US citizens who are travelling or living outside the US. It’s important to know who will pay the expenses if an emergency medical evacuation from China becomes necessary. It is not uncommon for an emergency medical evacuation to Europe or the United States to cost a private citizen as much as USD40,000-80,000 if a special plane has to be used.
All visitors should get all recommended immunisations prior to coming to Shanghai. There is a limited supply of imported vaccines available at the health care facilities that cater to expatriates, and availability can be inconsistent. Before travel, contact a family doctor or one of the travel medicine centres to be found in most major cities and inquire about the needed vaccines. Do this at least four weeks prior to travel so that the vaccinations have time to take effect.
There are choices and it’s best to do some research and make arrangements before you arrive in Shanghai. On one end, you can plan on seeking treatment at local hospitals. These can be very inexpensive and will be paid out of your pocket. Expat doctors say that while local hospital care is adequate for certain health issues, it might not provide the standard of care you would expect in a Western medical establishment. Conditions vary, as does the standard of English spoken by doctors and administrators.
On the other end, you have deluxe expat worldwide insurance coverage for you and your family. They pay the rate charged at expat hospitals for Western-style medical coverage, and can provide maternity, dental and outpatient services for you and your family. This is the most desirable option for most expats. When you relocate here as part of a corporate package, you should get a clear statement of what is included in your medical coverage. Follow up by consulting your doctor, particularly if you need specialised care, and research supplementary options. Rates vary dramatically based on your personal situation and the type of insurance you need. For free quotes, you can go through an insurance broker such as Expatmedicare, International Medical Group or Expatriate Insurance.
Dental insurance policies are also available, often as an add-on to medical insurance policies, but they can be very expensive. Check carefully what the policy covers, particularly with regard to routine work such as examinations, X-rays and dental hygiene services.
In order to get a Residence Permit, all foreigners must apply for a Health Certificate at a government-appointed health check centre. Shanghai International Travel Healthcare Center is 1701 Hami Lu. Office hours for physical examination and verification for foreigners are Monday to Friday, 8.30-11am, 1-4pm (bookings: 6268 8851). The physical examination includes a general check-up, blood pressure and pulse reading, height and weight measurements, ICG, chest X-ray and AIDS and syphilis tests. It usually takes seven working days to process the Health Certificate.
The required documents are:
1) Your passport and four recent passport photos
2) Health Certificate Application Form
3) Copy of your employer’s Business Registration Certificate