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
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
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
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’.
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
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
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
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
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.