Medical drama

Forget Grey’s Anatomy and House – China has Xinshu

Medical drama

As WiC has reported in previous issues (128 and 145) life as a doctor in China is increasingly a high-risk profession, as disgruntled patients look to confront medical staff.

Two further pieces of news on the same theme came out this week. One was a policy announcement: to improve physician safety, the government has ordered all large hospitals and medical institutions to open police stations on their premises.

And the other is a new TV show: the drama Xinshu (rough translation: Heart Operation) focusing on the challenges facing China’s medical profession, including their personal safety.

A doctor called Chen at a Beijing hospital, interviewed by China Broadcasting online, welcomed the new police rooms and said they’d improve safety for doctors, especially in emergency rooms, when relatives can become agitated or patients are drunk. But Zhou Zijun, a professor at Peking University’s Public Health Institute, said he doubted the problems that riddle the medical system could be solved by a greater police presence.

The TV show, on the other hand, opened to more positive reviews, even though much of the online discussion about the programme was critical of the medical profession at large, with the widespread view that too many doctors care more about cash than they do for their patients.

The latest act of violence occurred last Saturday when a man leapt off an operating table in a hospital in Hubei province, the Beijing News reported. He then attacked an anaesthetist before smashing his way out of the operating theatre.

The patient was angry at a “hateful” discussion with the doctor, it was suggested. But the physician said his questions were part of a standard, pre-operation routine. The man concerned had stab wounds and reportedly smelled of alcohol.

The Ministry of Health reported last week that there were 17,243 cases of “major disturbance” at hospitals in 2010, up 7,000 from five years before.

On Thursday, the Xinmin Evening News also pointed to the hiring of “extortionist” gangs – professionals who shout and wail in public, especially in cases where patients have died – to get more money from hospitals. Participants believe “big rows bring big money, small rows less, and no rows no compensation at all,” the newspaper claimed.

In Xinshu, the action is tense and swift. ­­­­­­­­­­­­But netizens have been quick to point out that the hospital in the show is much fancier than their real-life equivalents, and hardly representative of reality. Beijing Youth Daily’s online entertainment site mocked the show, and quoted a viewer: “I watched two episodes of Xinshu and feel it’s just a bunch of handsome doctors and pretty nurses in hospital whites.”

Of course, that’s hardly unusual elsewhere, with generations of dramas from Dr Kildare through to Grey’s Anatomy taking a similar approach.

But hospital dramas are rarer in China. Long Xiaohui, chairman of the Jiangsu Zhongtianlong Culture Company, says the reason is that scriptwriters haven’t taken the time to understand how hospitals, and medicine, really work.

That means a shortfall in credibility: “Many viewers really know what hospitals are like so there’s a risk when you don’t get it exactly right. They’ll say ‘not right,’” Long told the Nanjing Daily.

“To write a script for a hospital drama you have to do really solid investigation at a hospital, and what famous scriptwriter is willing to spend the time doing that?”

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