The University of Hong Kong Shenzhen Hospital set up an international medical center in November 2013 to woo expat patients. Sun Yuchen
AMONG all the goals Shenzhen has planned and reached during the past 35 years, becoming an international city has always been at the forefront. While a number of international enterprises have been set up here, the city is also attracting a growing number of expats. Today , we will look at the challenges facing the foreigner service stations and the changes in health care service for expats.
While Shenzhen transformed itself from a small fishing village into a modern metropolis, health care service providers grew in number, scale, quality and even in the languages they spoke to keep up with the city’s rapid internationalization.
A large percentage of the city’s 130-odd hospitals now employ foreign language-speaking staff members, and a growing number of hospitals and clinics in the city are offering services that target expats, according to a yearend report by the city’s health commission.
Shekou People’s Hospital’s growth path well exemplifies that of Shenzhen’s health care. Located in Nanshan District’s Shekou area, where nearly 70 percent of the city’s expat population lives, the hospital’s predecessor in the early 1980s was two small clinics. Now, it treats 7,000 expats annually and has become the only comprehensive and public hospital in the southern Chinese mainland.
About 80 percent of the doctors at the hospital speak English, and the signs are printed in both Chinese and English, said Peggy Meng from the hospital’s outpatient department.
Last year, the hospital opened a VIP in-patient section with English-speaking nurses and doctors to meet the demands of the burgeoning expat community, and the number of patients the 18-beds VIP section has received this year grew markedly, Zhou Xiaoli, director of the section, told Shenzhen Daily.
Peking University Shenzhen Hospital in Futian District also has a VIP health center that has English-speaking staffers. The center treats about 2,000 expat patients annually and is organizing a volunteer team to help translate for expat patients, according to Lan Wei, director of the department. The hospital works with many international insurance companies such as U.S.-based Aetna, Europe-based ERV and Japan-based Wellbe.
Global medical service providers also expanded into Shenzhen as the number of expats working and living here grew. International SOS established a presence in Shenzhen in 1999 as the first international medical provider in the city and it remains the only wholly foreign-owned medical outpatient clinic in the city.
“In the early years, our services were dedicated to the oil sector, and as the number of foreign investors in Shenzhen increased, the clinic was opened to the general public,” said Sandra Fuld, clinic manager. “We welcomed a new doctor, Dr. Christophe Gaudeul, to our team recently and expanded our services to become a provider of OGUK health checks in Shenzhen.”
The University of Hong Kong Shenzhen Hospital, which opened three years ago, set up an international medical center in November 2013 to woo expat patients. The center has an outpatient department, a health assessment center and an inpatient department with a total of 238 beds.
Led by Professor Keith Lau, an internationally renowned doctor of pediatric kidney disease, the center has a team of specialists from Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore and the Chinese mainland.
“Shenzhen is an international city where a large number of expats demand high-quality health care,” said Lau. “Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai have many such medical service providers, and we want to fill the void in Shenzhen with our international medical center.”
Internationally renowned Hong Kong optometrist Dennis Lam opened a clinic in Shenzhen in 2013 when the city started encouraging overseas investment in the health care sector. Now C-MER (Shenzhen) Dennis Lam Eye Hospital has a team of 12 doctors who can all speak English and follow international practices. Some of its doctors are employed through an exchange program with hospitals in other countries such as India.
Even though health services for expats in Shenzhen are getting better, improvements are still needed. The city’s emergency center still needs to open an English-language emergency hotline for expats, a representative from Peking University Shenzhen Hospital said. She added that ATMs in the city and POS machines in hospitals should accept international credit cards.
Meng said medical practitioners must know about foreign cultures and be aware of patients’ religious beliefs.