Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stupid, stupid me.

Tomorrow's square in Shanghai

One birthmark removal later and I am a poor, and angry person.

Now, I know that some of your are going to think I am the most naive thing when u hear about this, but I'd still like to share it to warn other (naive as me) people so that they don't make the same mistake.

In July this year I started doing long runs and as a result of the heat, the time and the heavy sweating my sports bra started rubbing against one birth mark, eventually making it bleed and fall off. I freaked out a little bit and called a hospital in Shanghai to find out about birthmark removal.

-Sure no problem. Said the woman on the phone. You should come in for a consulting. This month that is free.
-How much do you charge for the actual removal?
-We charge per square millimeter, so 100-200 kuai per millimeter. It depends how it looks. Is it big?
-No, it's tiny. A dot.
-Well then it shouldn't be any problem. I think I can book you half an hour and the doctor can remove it straight away.

One week later I went to see the dermatologist at Parkway Health (some fancy hospital located on Tomorrow Square in Shanghai. This was NOT the hospital I had called when I made the appointment but this is to where I was referred). He looked at the birthmark and said I should remove it.

-Sure, go ahead, I said.
-Eh, ok, let's make an appointment.
-No, let's do it now
! I said.
-Eh... no... the people that can do it has already left for today. Sorry. You have to come back. Shall I make you a new appointment?

OK, at this point I got a bit annoyed. I had come from Suzhou to have it removed. Besides, doesn't a dermatologist know how to remove birth marks? Does he need others to do it for him? Apparently so. I was told to come back another day. I was leaving for Sweden, however, and couldn't make it back before the end of summer.

When I got back to China about one month ago the birthmark hadn't given me any problems... until I went for a long run in the humid heat and it started bleeding. I made a new appointment for birthmark removal and yesterday I went in to have it done.

This time it was a new dermatologist, he was really nice and professional and yadi yadi and he took his time explaining everything for me. I have a fear for needles so I almost fainted when I got the anaesthesia shot (childish I know but I can't really control it? It just happens when I do a blood test or take a shot...) but except for that it was OK. Until... I got the bill.

-That will be 4080 kuai.
-No. 4080.

Yes, 4080 kuai for a the REMOVAL of a BIRTHMARK?!!!
-U kidding right? I asked the nurse, although I could tell on her face that she wasn't. And I could also tell on her face that she wasn't used to patients reacting the way I did when they saw their bill.

Obviously I couldn't do anything else but to pay, make an appointment for the stitch removal and leave. Now I am anxiously awaiting the response from my insurance company... meanwhile feeling like a total idiot. Why didn't I just ask how much he would charge for it all BEFORE he started cutting? Why, why, why....? Why am I such an idiot?!!! I am going to call the same number today though and ask again for a new price quote because seriously -shouldn't they be a bit more open about the price before they start treating their patients? Or shouldn't he have said: 'well now I have to cut a quite big piece of skin so this is going to cost you... xxx' At least that is what they did when I went to the dentist here. They showed me the total cost before doing anything.

Anyways, like I said, this is just a story I'd like to share so that other that are walking around in 'birthmark removal thoughts' doesn't proceed with it at Parkway Health. This is obviously the the creme de la cream of health care, and not a place for 'people on a budget' (like me).

Having had this experience, and being 4000 kuai poorer that yesterday morning, I have now learned that never, ever assume anything. And always ask for the exact price. Not that I didn't already know that. But now I know it even more.

(And, as if this wasn't enough -now I cannot run for 10 days?! Ahhhoooochh! Well, this I already knew about but normally when I am angry or frustrated I go for a run to wind down. What now? Taking a walk?! Damn!)

Go on -tell me how stupid I am for not finding out the exact price before getting it removed. This one's on me.


Anonymous said...

Yes you are very stupid on this one. But I'm pretty sure you can get partial back if you know how.

Anonymous said...

Feel the punch of an active free traffic exchange!


Jonna Wibelius said...

anonymouse -hehe, thanks for the honesty. Well I don't think my insurance company is going to like the fact that this birthmark has been growing/changing for more than 2 months... But let's see. Fingers crossed!

Anonymous said...

Well what's happened to you isn't unusual. I sometimes dont ask either. I gotta admit that I understand why the staff looked at you that way. Westerners/expats are regarded as being rolling in the green stuff, for obvious reasons. In fact, one could stereotypically assume that because your mum is a dentist, you have moolah overflowing from your pockets!

On a different topic, can I ask you something? When u said the Koreans approached you, do you mean that you didnt advertise to tutor English, you were just sipping some coffee and they saw your blonde locks and so assumed you'd be a someone good to tutor their young one? Wow. I gotta bleach my hair man ;)



Jonna Wibelius said...

Adrian -yes, that's exactely what happened! Their kids came up to me first and said hello and I spoke a little bit to them (in Chinese since they didn't know English) and then later the mums came.... asking if I could teach one of their daughters (who wasn't there at that moment). I told them that I wasn't a teacher, they said it was OK. Funny, huh? Now a friend of the Korean girl's mother wants me to teach her son too. Weird.

It's actually funny that very starbucks. I have been approached from 5 different people there: 3 men -all from Taiwan- has come up to me and asked if I want to do language exchange witht hem (although only one was serious about it), the Korean ladies wanted me to teach and then one western guy came up and asked if I was 'new in town' (which is funny, because I was when that happened) and if I needed someone to 'show me around'... hm...

Anonymous said...


I for one don't think you're stupid, naive or anything in that category. I wouldn’t call you that even though I can see that you suspect readers to say it (maybe you’re just fishing for us to say you’re not, and now you got it) ;-)

You're not naïve, you’re just Scandinavian. Here we believe what we're told and usually can count on it. If we are cheated or wrongly informed here we make a fuzz and most of the times get our message through. Then we settle on a sensible agreement with the opposite part. Bam, both parts are happy. That’s normal business and ethics in all deals.

You've just forgotten for a second that you're in China, and everything should be not only double checked, but also sometimes followed by evidence. ;-)

Even with that in the back of your mind, I still think you've been cheated. When you called the clinic you were told an estimate made on the size of the mole. That should be enough for you not to end up with a bill like that except if they mentioned it before starting (if it was more complicated, than first thought). In my world there’s a huge difference between 100-200kuai pr. mm and 4000Kuai in the end. It’s not just a small miscalculation and a more difficult surgery turning more expensive. For 2000kuai you should be able to get a 1x1cm removed, and you said it was tiny, so I suspect foul play, even though I can’t tell what size your mole was in the end (we need pictures and a match put next to it!!! Just joking oc). ;-)

I have to say, that if I were you, I’d contact the hospital/clinic soon and tell then that they have a serious problem with what they say on the phone, and what they write on the bill. Not sure if you can get anything back from it, but then at least that may start thinking a bit about the problem in the future.

If the clinic looses face, so be it. You have nothing to loose as I see it (except the stitches) ;-)

Jonna Wibelius said...

Peter -thanks for your nice comment :). Naive and Scandinavian? Hm.. I might have to use that excuse next time ;) (I guess I should have just got it removed when I was in Fi/Swe this summer, because u r right. Scandos are so honest that it sometimes hurts)

I have been thinking myself about calling the hospital, just to ask for a price quote.. and if she tells me the same as last time I will def have some additional questions regaring the sum on my bill.

Geoff said...

Hello Jonna,

I found your story interesting as I sympathise with you about someone removing something from your body, or inserting needles into my skin or mouth. I am the same, I have to lie down or else I fall down, fainting. It seems silly, but it is real! My doctor explained that the fear which I experience is owing to not feeling that I am in control of the situation, that is someone else is in control as they perform a procedure.

With regard to the removal of the birth mark, I assume you are referring to a lesion. You did not mention, but is the clinic sending the lesion away to a pathology laboratory to check if it is malignant or non-malignant?

Geoff (Australia)

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! Well Parkway Health are really for the rich expats on big health plans paid for by their companies. Everything is inflated. I once went for a skin problem and they gave me some topical cream, 3 tubes of it. It was exactly the same brand that I had bought in Watsons for about 10 rmb. They charged about 100 rmb each. What's worse, they often are useless. I went for a cough complaint and they prescribed lots of different things none of which helped. It included an inhaler that was a waste of time but VERY costly.

Now I go to the Hua Shan Foreigners Clinic which is much cheaper.

I had a growth on my face removed by laser for 100 rmb plus about 25 rmb for some antibiotics to prevent infection.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Woai -u just had to rub it in, didn't you?! Well that's my first and last visit to Parkway... Huashan it is from now on!!!

Geoff -Yes the removed bit has been sent to a pathology laboratory. I don't think there's any problems though... since the changes were self-caused (chafing sport's bra...). Nice to know I am not the only one feeling faint when someone mentions needles. I always feel stupid when I explain it to others but I can't really control it.

Geoff said...

Hello Jonna,

I agree with you about one feeling stupid. To add to my stupid feeling, my wife and children make fun of me! My children handle needles and procedures with no problems.


Anonymous said...

Jonna sorry I thought it was a rare open invitation to rub it in so I went for it!

To make up for it, let me say I went for a blood test once in London and watched the blood pour out into a container. I went to my car but almost couldn't see and had to sit down and they gave me a glass of water. The amount of blood taken was no more than a few drops so my light-headed reaction was 100% in my brain! Now I learn NOT to look and I am fine.

Anonymous said...

I think you should get a Chinese friend to ring up for a quote.
If the quote is very different to what you paid I think you should do a 'chinese' - go in and start shouting at them. I've seen it time and time again and the shouters/complainers usually get what they want!

Anonymous said...

Could it have been the cost of the lab check, and the girl only quoted you over the phone the cost of the operation?