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Chinese Immigrants Prefer Medical Services in Their Home Countries

It is mandatory for B.C. residents to pay for Medical Services Plans whether or not they use the services. However,…

By amanda sung , in The Immigrant , on January 16, 2009 Tags: , ,

It is mandatory for B.C. residents to pay for Medical Services Plans whether or not they use the services. However, such policy isn’t tempting enough for Chinese immigrants to seek medical attention here in Canada.

According to the study published in Open Medicine this month, 14% of the participating B.C. Chinese immigrants have not visited a medical practitioner during the time the time this research took place. The rate of the comparison group is only 4%.

Alice Chen, a health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, and her colleague Arminée Kazanjian, a population and public health professor at the University of British Columbia, investigated whether Chinese-speaking doctors helped Chinese immigrants to receive care.

CBC reported that the researchers reviewed health records from more than 270,000 patients and identified a total of 866 Chinese-speaking medical practitioners in the province.

Some of the experts in this field argue that the main factor contributing to Chinese immigrants’ reluctance to utilize the health services available in Canada comes from Chinese-heritage acculturation.

Alden and Hsu seemed to imply that culturally among the Chinese there is a concern of bringing shame on the family, which they suspected, could cause Asians to be more reluctant to admit to mental health problems.

I agree that it can be a cultural thing. In my experience, many middle-aged and elderly Chinese never bring up their illness. They do not want their children and grandchildren to get worried. They also avoid having to seek help from their dependents because they would like to be the ones that give rather than to receive.

However, one of cultural variables that Hsu and Alden might not take into account is that the Chinese immigrants perhaps simply did not want to admit to the doctors here. They prefer to work with the doctors in their home countries, such as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, or Macau.

My mother, Shu-Shen Lui, chose to fly back to Taiwan for tests and treatments both times when she felt a lump on her breast and had serious kidney problems. Although I resented her absence for a while, I always knew that she made the right choice. The health care system in Canada just wasn’t meant for her.

On the other hand, if she had gone back to Taiwan, where she didn’t need to go through a family doctor, she would have been able to to go straight to the hospital to see a specialist literally the day after her plane landed in Taiwan.

Of course, at the time, my sister and I were still young. She didn’t take off right away.

Some people would assume that women like my mother should prefer to stay with her kids in Vancouver while getting treatments. After all, most people would agree that it is nice to have family around during time of illness. However, the language barrier was too much for my mother to bear.

Just because my sister and I weren’t around my mother when she was sick, it didn’t mean she was going to be alone. Immigrants like us tend to have quite a geographically scattered family tree. While some of my cousins are all over the world, my mother’s parents and sibilings still live in Taiwan. They were able to keep her company and look after her while my sister and I remained in Canada.