Must-knows About Shanghai Ambulance Service
Niels DECONINCK, Emergency Medicine Physician
Whether you have been living in China for years, or just arrived, the environment in Shanghai is unique. Language, traffic, air quality, and cultural differences can be challenging. And if accidents can happen everywhere, dealing with them in this context may reveal more stressful than it should be for the unprepared. Anticipating and preparing your plan of action in case of an emergency is the best way to avoid unnecessary anxiety.
United Family Hospital has an emergency department ready to help you 24/7, but you may need the assistance of the Shanghai ambulance service to reach the hospital. Such service is always different in each country. Here is what you need to know about the ambulance in Shanghai.
Step 1: Getting help!
To get an ambulance in Shanghai, there is only one number to remember: 120. A service run by the Shanghai Emergency Medical Center. 120 is THE only number able to send help. The line is in Chinese, but the operator can refer you to a third party if needed for translation (no direct English hotline. As you can imagine, finding an English-speaking operator might delay your all by a few minutes, so as much as possible try to have your own translator if required. It can be a friend, colleague, or just someone nearby willing to help! It is also possible to ask someone to call remotely on your behalf but they will need to provide the exact location (to be efficiently picked up) and the nature of the distress (to ensure that the proper team and means are sent). 120 does not have geo-localization service, so if you are not sure of your exact location you may need to call the police (110) for assistance.
Alternatively, you may Call the SHU emergency hotline (021-22163999) on the 24-hour number manned by our ER receptionists, who are trained in coordinating emergencies. Be prepared to provide your name, exact location, nature of the medical emergency, etc to avoid delays.
The ambulance will not be able to find you without clear information， so in the interest of your own peace of mind, the more precise, the easier the rescue process will be.
Step 2: Ambulance
The 120 single call centre deals with more than 2.5 million requests per year. The time of arrival cannot be guaranteed but they always come as soon as possible.
Once you are in the ambulance, you can usually choose the hospital you want to be taken to. The exception being life threating situations, or very acute distresses as the ambulance will in those instances take you to the nearest appropriate (close to your location, and with the specialties that the doctor assess you may need) emergency department (usually less than 3-5km away, the local hospital network being quite dense).You can thus ask to be taken to Shanghai united hospital and it is always easier if you have or know the destination address（1139 Xianxia Road，Changning District）.
Once on the way, you can call the hospital’s ER hotline to warn the team that you are on the way and briefly explain the situation to make sure the ER team can proactively prepare accordingly.
In the ambulance, there will always at least be one emergency doctor, one driver and one full-time medical first aid technician. In addition, the composition may be adjusted depending on the situation. The team will most likely not speak English, so once again having a translator with you or on standby on the phone is helpful. Normally one person only can ride with the patient in the ambulance to ensure enough space for the medical team to work efficiently. They are equipped with monitoring device, defibrillator, splints for simple immobilizations and IV medications for resuscitation (fluids, epinephrine,..). Comfort is basic and service minimal so it is recommended to manage your expectations and focus on arriving to your destination quickly and safely to get proper care.
Step 3: After the ride
You will be sent to the emergency department. The ambulance staff will require you to pay for the ambulance in cash when you arrive at the hospital. It is therefore recommended to carry enough cash with you, to avoid hunting for an ATM. A sum of 300RMB should be enough unless you are very far from the hospital. The fee is 30RMB base fare plus 7RMB per km (after the 4th), and 80RMB per hour of waiting time. If provided they will also charge a 60RMB fee for prehospital treatment, and the consumables etc. SHU can help with cash advance on arrival at our ER if you have don’t have cash with you.
Once in the ER you will be triaged and care will be arranged according to your needs.