Lack of Safety in Chinese Hospitals

| June 18th, 2014

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Chinese patients’ requests for more honest, better-qualified doctors have gone ignored. The city’s 27 public hospitals really need police officers, officials decided last month.

Officials are requesting police officers as deputy administrators, not just at the entrance. The goal? To keep displeased patients and their family from attacking the doctors.

The decision was swiftly reversed when Chinese health experts argued against it, stating that the police were public servants, not personal bodyguards for doctors and medical assistants.

Officials in the northeastern industrial hub of nearly eight million people stated a valid point: Chinese hospitals are dangerous places to work. The Health Ministry published statistics on hospital violence in 2006 showing more than 5,500 attacks by patients or their relatives injuring medical workers.

“I always feel this element of danger”, said a neurosurgeon at Shengjing Hospital. “I think the police should have a permanent base here.

In June 2010, a doctor was stabbed to death in Shandong Province by the son of a patient who died of cancer. Also, a pediatrician in a Fujian Province was injured after leaping out a fifth-floor window to flee from upset relatives of a newborn who had died under his care. In another case, three doctors were severely burned in Shanxi Province when a patient set fire to a hospital office.

Throughout the past year, families of departed patients have forced doctors to don mourning clothes as a sign of atonement for poor care, and organized protests to close hospital entrances. More than 2,000 people rioted at a hospital after reports that a 3-year-old was denied treatment because his grandfather could not pay $82 in fees, which led to the child dying.

Protests over numerous issues have been on the rise in China. Officials from government are on guard against unrest that could spiral out of control and threaten the Communist Party’s power.

Doctors say the strains in the relationship between them and patients’ family members are usually the result of unrealistic expectations by poor families who traveled far and exhausted their savings on care, expect medical miracles.

The World Health Organization ranked China’s health system as one of the worlds most inequitable, ranking 188th among 191 nations. Almost two of every five sick people went untreated. One in 10 had health insurance.

Doctors complain that they are unhappy as patients. They complain about being undervalued, mistrusted, and underpaid. One in four suffers from depression, and fewer than two of every three believe that their patients respect them, a survey by Peking University discovered in October 2010.

In June 2010, over 100 doctors in Fujian Province stages their own sit-in after their hospital paid $31,000 to the family of a patient who perished. The doctors were upset because after the patient died the relatives took a doctor hostage, inciting a bottle-throwing melee that injured a number of employees.

In the city of Shenyang, they have been looking for ways to ward off disturbances, including setting up hospital mediation centers, The city still reported 152 severe conflicts between patients and doctors last year.

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