China does not offer the healthiest of environments for residents. The continued practice of burning coal means that the cities are badly polluted, and many people suffer from respiratory problems while in China.
High levels of pesticides are used in growing fruit and vegetables and it is therefore necessary to wash them very thoroughly before eating, preferably in a chlorine solution. There may be a high lead content in food which has been canned in China. Tap water is not safe to drink unless boiled.
Health care is widely available in China with clinics being found in every village, factory and school, but in many areas the facilities are very basic and not generally used by expatriates. Rural clinics may even refuse to accept responsibility for treating foreigners. China no longer offers free medical care for all urban residents, as people are now being encouraged to buy health insurance.
Satisfactory medical care for expatriates is available in the main cities, but emergency treatment may be inadequate. Ambulances are often unavailable and do not carry sophisticated medical equipment. There are hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and some other cities which employ international medical staff and have ‘VIP’ wards in which foreigners can be treated.
Most expatriates have private health insurance which includes evacuation to specialized hospitals in Hong Kong if needed. It should be noted that many Chinese hospitals do not accept medical insurance from overseas, and some health insurance issued by Chinese companies may not cover foreign nationals for serious long-term illness.
Many companies employing large numbers of expatriates have their own medical facilities for employees and their dependents. There are also a number of foreign healthcare providers operating medical and dental clinics and evacuation services, catering primarily for expatriates and visitors.
China has experienced problems with its blood supply being infected with HIV, so transfusions should be avoided if possible. It is also normal practice in China to reuse hypodermic needles, so it is advisable to take a supply with you in case injections are needed. Expatriates should also take supplies of health care products and copies of prescriptions.