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A Letter From China
Chinese Health Examination

Chinese Health Examination

When I went for my Chinese ‘Medical’ in early August 2011 I really had no idea what to expect except for what I had read and written in these pages. These were the words of others, you will understand. I had two things in mind:
1. The medical would be held in a specified Chinese hospital.
2. I reasoned the medical would need to be conducted close to the date of the reason for use = applying for a residency ‘D’ visa.

The facts were slightly different:
1. Chinese medical examinations are not held at a hospital that you or I would recognise. Instead they are held at a dedicated government facility under the auspices of the PSB (Public Security Bureau or Police). This is a very specific and dedicated medical facility that offers medical checks upon payment to both foreigners; and Chinese citizens who may need a certificate for their jobs, etc.
2. The Medical Certificate when issued; is a booklet that is valid for 1-year.

The other thing of note was that there was no set time of arrival, and I could arrive anytime between working hours, (8 – 5, Monday through Friday, excluding lunch of around 2-hours [12 – 2])

The two staff in reception both spoke excellent English and gave me a small pack of forms to fill in. I went to the side and started filling in my name, D.O.B., Nationality, Passport Number, et cetera. I was cursing that they wanted my weight and height in metric – something I have absolutely no idea about, when a further question caught my eye and I resolved that these items were for the medical staff to fill in. This was soon confirmed as later questions were certainly concerning things I definitely would not know about.

So be warned, only fill in the first two small blocks and leave the rest for them.

The second form was headed as applicable to Hong Kong and Macao residents seeking residence, so I did not bother filling that one in. I was then sent back to fill it in – virtually the same as before, so obviously a rogue form they had adapted for use in their bureaucracy.

I then returned and had to wait as three Chinese people had appeared ahead of me, two of which seemed intent on camping out for the day.

I was considering going outside for a cigarette when suddenly one guy was dismissed and I was called forth. My paperwork was checked and my wife asked a few questions by way of confirmation, and then I was given a small printed form to check. It was simple basics, and once confirmed, I was told to pay the cashier.

She was sitting in the next seat so I handed my growing mountain of forms to her and she asked me for 3 hundred and 8-te RMB. I queried this as Chinese are hopeless at verbally differentiating between 80 and 18, but got the same reply. I gave her Y 320 thinking this a good place to begin, and got 12 RMB change. Ahha! Now I understandy.

All was well and I was told to go to the office on the left, and when done there, go upstairs. Well Jack’s the Boy, so off I toddle and meet the first of many trained medical staff who do not speak hardly any English, nor Cantonese, nor Toisanwah. Mandarin only then … Ho-hum!

I was first told to stand on some weird scales attached to the wall, then told to remove my shoes and try again. This was in mime. Having complied I was eager to find out what was next, only to be told to stand still, again in mime. I did so, but was looking over at the results readout.

Apparently this machine must also have taken my height via some unseen device, for my height was entered as 181 – when memory suddenly returned and I knew I was actually 186 / 187 tall. However, 181 stood as measured, so that was it.

Not actually feeling a couple of inches shorter than normal we got on to the next bit, which was checking my answers on the form. No I did not have any of the indicated and rare diseases or complaints – fortunately multi-lingual. Then she rested her right elbow on the counter and laid her arm down. Ahha! I know this one = blood test. I copied by placing my right arm down wondering if they did this the opposite way round from the west. The answer was ‘no’, as I was then asked to change arms.

Two small phials of blood were leeched from me via a small capillary device, then the tourniquet was released and a plaster put over my wound, with instructions to hold it in place of course. I think this should have been done before the tourniquet was released? But what do I know?

Next she placed a small plastic jam pot with lid between us and looked at me. I said in my best Cantonese ‘Au Liu’ meaning go take a piss. She smiled and nodded her head, stating that I spoke Cantonese. I agreed and instead of striking up a basically redundant conversation, went to the nearby toilet.

Due to my cold (Departing) and my fever (Oncoming); the result was a bit too orange, but before I could contemplate the deeper meanings of this my wife and screaming daughter appeared. Siu Ying told me to place the cup on the tray and go upstairs; whilst Nonnie (19 months) screeched extremely loudly to indicate she was very happy.

Then I had to climb the stairs and I was well shattered when I got to the top. I mean normally it would have been nothing – but due to my illnesses I was totally knackered after climbing all of what/ say forty steps. I knew my pulse was racing and I needed fresh air, but was immediately called into a room and invited to sit down. I gave the Doctor my paperwork and he sat to study it before wrapping my upper-arm up in a pulse recorder thingymagig.

I knew this would not be a normal reading as I was still struggling for air, and so it proved to be; he giving me a strange look as the machine settled at 90 over whatever. I then tried to explain about my cold, coughing and making breathing noises. He warily looked at me askance before we tried again. This time I was down to a whisker over 80 and he smiled deeply.

He then filled in a few boxes and asked me to stand on the mark near the door for the ‘eyes testy’. This greatly confused me because I had no idea what symbols I was looking at. Well, ok – there was one capital ‘E’, but then there were three more of the same character in different positions through 360 degrees. I think I flunked most of the right eye test before I worked out that these symbols were supposed to represent ‘E, W, M, and 3’. However, I found this to be very confusing, even after I worked out what the criteria was supposed to be. It was like looking at a foreign language, which I guess it was.

I thought I did well eventually with the right eye, but then had to do the same with my far weaker left eye. You can imaging my surprise when later I found I had scored the same with both eyes, even though I could actually read three very smaller lines deeper with my right eye … once I understood what it was I was supposed to be reading. The guy was fine though and seemed to take to me a little.

Then I was asked to leave and handed my paperwork. I wandered around the corridor set with many medical offices and a few staff. One of them eventually glanced up and took pity on me, beckoning me inside her domain.

I was ushered into the curtained-off rear and told to remove my shoes. I then lay on the bed and the Doctor from before came through who prodded and poked me all over my torso. I was then raised up and my back inspected, which brought a gleam of delight and understanding from this quite eminent physician, and I mean that. His eyes lit up as he pointed to the scar on my lower back, a reminder of some very serious back surgery many years before. I think he had been looking for something and this was his most unexpected answer.

With forms filled in once more I find myself back out in the corridor and am adopted by a nice looking young female Doctor who ushers me straight into a back room and asks me to take off my shoes. I may as well have carried the things to be honest.

She may have looked quite pretty, but I am sure she must have trained under Frankenstein, for she lays me down on a bench and attaches large electric clamps to my legs and forearms. Then she adds eight or ten heavy pods to my central and left scalp, and presses a button. The machine whirs with menace and I am expecting to be fried at any moment.

Fortunately the apparatus stops soon after and she smiles as she releases me from the shackles. I see her filling in the ECG section and wonder. I put on my shoes once more and am handed my paperwork to take to the next office, which is ….. where?

Uh-Oh! This is the radiology lab - and any long-term and heavy smoker will tell you this does not rate highly on their wish-list. This is body internals scan, with special focus on the lungs. The guy has me making all sorts of shapes with my body and I am expecting the worst result. However, he seems confused more than enlightened, so soon my wife is called to talk to him.

They talk for a very long time, whilst he still looks back at the screen and then copies this within his understanding to her words. Then they have my answer as I break out into a fit of coughing I had been trying to hold back. The vitreous liquid cloying deep within my lungs eventually is forced free and he asks a simple question before staring at the screen once more and passing me through.

I asked my wife several times what their conversation was about, and she dismissed it as being of ‘no concern’. Right!

Sure, my lungs are full of shit, but this is the cold / fever, and not related to my predilection for enjoying cigarettes. I did look for white blotches of course, and there weren’t any! Result!!!

So with more paperwork in hand I head off for the next set of tests, not quite knowing where to go. However, I am running out of rooms to visit and after stumbling upon the staff canteen room, we find the next Doctor I need to see.

This one is all about ultrasound scans, and the practitioner appears to like talking to her computer. Well so do I, so I pay it no mind as I again remove my shoes and lie upon the nearby bench. She splodges me with gunk and then sets too with her contraptions. After a good examination of my torso I am whisked over on to one side, and then the other.

She then sets back to her computer, presumably to interpolate the results, and continues talking to herself. Again I am sure I am not the recipient of her wisdom. I put my shoes back on and take a vacant chair as I wait for her to finish. She is actually very quick and soon hands me my ever growing wad of paper, signing me off and handing me out.

We do not know if there are more tests, so my wife checks the forms to determine all the boxes have been filled in. I ask her where Nonnie is and apparently she has gone off with the electrocution girl into the staff quarters to eat sweets. At her mother’s call she comes squealing back (I hope this is a passing phase) and we are joined by the original Doctor also. There is some sort of baby club going on until a Chinese guy rocks up for some tests, and I make a hasty retreat downstairs.

I hand in the papers and they are fine. I am told to come back at 4 pm tomorrow to collect the certificate … note those words please ‘collect the certificate’. Or I can pay a courier Y21 and they will be delivered to my home. Well, with the bus costing Y30 each way, plus taxi fares, plus about 5 hours of my time, the courier is a winner. The girl does not understand this, but has my wife fill in our address on the form.

As Siu Ying begins to fill in out address, so Nonnie has escaped and has found another toddler to scream with – they are having a screaming match! I run after her and finally tackling her, lead her outside for some prime family time with father. I sit her on my knee, light up, and discuss with her ‘Zen and the art of passing a Chinese radiology examination’. She replies by asking me for some milk. Looks like we have our deal … and Mummy doesn’t know!

My new Foreigner’s Medical Book arrives duly by courier on the second morning and I find it to be great. Right there at the top of the first page alongside my name and photograph is my blood group in a very large letter ‘O’. It does not say whether this is rhesus positive or negative, but the mere fact that I finally know my blood group is enlightening.

You may wonder why this is a concern of mine? Well, the basic fact is that Chinese people mainly have type A blood, and a few type B. They do not have type O blood, so should I ever be in need of an emergency blood transfusion, then this could become a very serious matter.

My wife had been quite concerned about my results, and I caught her the next evening studying the booklet in detail when she thought I was otherwise occupied. There were a couple of minor notes and a recommendation for me to take more exercise and adopt a healthy diet. There was also a note for me to loose a little weight, but this I challenge, as I am just over 13 stone - but they have my height wrong. However, China is such a great place as nobody asked me to stop drinking and smoking – fantastic!

The next week I went and applied for a new Chinese visa, a 1-year residency ‘D’ visa! This was cheaper than the 6-month tourist ‘L’ visa costing me only Y800 RMB, as compared to Y930 for the latter. The same day I completed the paperwork by getting a Temporary Certificate of Residency from the local police, which took a mere 5-minutes as I am a well-known repeat offender.

Then I read the papers online and wonder if the Chinese policy towards immigrants isn’t in some ways a great improvement upon those rules currently in force in Blighty?

You may wish to consider the implications a little deeper, for any foreigner working or studying legitimately in China does require this official state medical certificate. It has extra sections I was not required to be checked against, such as: AIDS / HIV, and other highly infectious / contagious / debilitating diseases. I think it is a good thing overall, though do wonder about passing it again as I grow older and more prone to age-related maladies and decline.

Looking back I can now draw great comfort from the knowledge that I have just had a full medical check-up and passed with flying colours.

This work including text and associated photographs is Copyright of Jonno Morris (Unless stated otherwise), and may be reproduced for personal and private use under Collective Commons 3 Licence. An email would be appreciated in such circumstances, as would a reference.

You are not allowed to use this information to make money from my work - regardless of how fancy or well paid your lawyers may be.

Some artistic licence has been used arbitrarily in some of these Letters, and whilst most facts are in essence correct, some personal and literary interpretation may have been employed to greater or lesser degrees.
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