Healthcare

Doctoring the numbers?

Two years in, China’s medical reforms have a long way to go

Sick society: healthcare reforms are a top priority for Beijing

In 2006, Wang Baoming underwent surgery for throat cancer at Beijing Tongren Hospital, one of the capital’s best-known hospitals.

Wang was not satisfied with his treatment. In a blog written in 2009, he suggested that the surgeon who treated him, Xu Wen, had failed to do so properly, leaving him feeling “duped”, reported the China Daily. The newspaper also highlighted another blog posting in which Wang said he would get revenge on his doctor. And in September Wang did as promised, going to the hospital and stabbing Xu more than 10 times, leaving her seriously injured.

This is not an isolated case. At least nine doctors have been attacked in China so far this year, reports International Financial News, including a doctor in Fujian who was murdered by one of his patients (who blamed him for mistreating his own cancer).

Just over a month ago, there was another grizzly incident, again indicative of patient dissatisfaction with the medical system. This time it revolved around Chen Xiulian, a 70 year-old who died from a heart attack at Wuhan Union Hospital. She had been on the ward for five days, having arrived complaining of chest pains. Doctors initially diagnosed it as stomach ache, reports Caijing magazine, only later realising that it was a myocardial infection that required heart surgery. The patient’s family was furious, blaming the hospital for her death and refusing to sign documents produced by the physician that Chen had died after surgery despite rescue attempts.

Instead, the deceased’s eldest son Chen Jinxia assembled more than 30 relatives and friends to attack the hospital. Wielding steel rods, they injured more than 10 security guards, hospitalising three, one of whom ended up in intensive care.

Chen was later taken away by the police.

Such acts of violence come at a sensitive time – the government launched its landmark healthcare reforms in 2009 so as to bolster public confidence in the medical system. The continuing anger of patients is a bad sign.

In this special section we will look at the progress of China’s health reforms and analyse the colossal challenges that administrators still face. We’ll also look at medical insurance, the moral quandaries faced by Chinese doctors, and what the reforms mean for both the drug industry and the management teams of China’s (still too few) hospitals.


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