Friday, 17 January 2014

Violent medical disputes in China: two stories, two viewpoints

by Michael Woodhead
Two stories in China's media this week illustrate the ongoing problem of medical disputes that turn violent. Doctors and nurses work in fear while patients and families vent their frustration at being treated abysmally by a broken system.
It is only two months since Dr Wang Yunjie was killed by an irate patient at the hospital where he was working in Wenling, Zhejiang. And yet despite the national outrage this incident provoked, doctors at the hospital say they are still facing threats of violence from patients and their families. This week in China News, a 28-year old rehabilitation physician at the hospital, Dr Chen Junrui, recounts how staff have faced further attacks. He says that only a few days previously one of his female colleagues was assaulted by the family of a young boy who died of septicaemia. There was no way to save the boy, the doctor says, but the family would not listen to reason and called in a whole gang of other relatives and friends to berate staff and beat them, he says. A similar incident occurred only yesterday to him, and he was only narrowly able to defuse the situation, he told the reporter.
According to Dr Chen, relations between doctors and patients have deteriorated in the last three years. He says he comes from a medical family and his parents worked at a time when doctors were respected. Now they still talk medicine over the evening meal, but the conversation is all about how unsafe they feel at work.
Dr Chen says he is aware the system does not work well. Some days doctors have to see 100 patients in one shift, and they are often exhausted. But he say patients should not blame doctors and staff for the problems, and should be aware that healthcare workers are trying to do their best. He also blames certain sections if the media for portraying medical staff as corrupt, callous and uncaring.
"Since the killing, security measures have been stepped up and we now have security staff patrolling every half hour. But the main feeling I have at work is a lack of safety," he says.
Another story that has captured the attention of the Chinese media this week shows another side of the story. According to CNTV, a doctor at a Beijing hospital was assaulted by a patient who was bleeding badly but who was refused treatment until he waited in line to register and pay. The man had been drinking when he cut himself badly on a broken bottle. Bleeding badly from a wound, he and a group of friends rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. However, when he sought first aid from a doctor to stop the bleeding he was told to go to the back of the queue and wait. Enraged, the man kicked the doctor to the floor and his friends also assaulted several security guards who tried to control the situation. The man was eventually arrested by police and taken into custody.
A commentary said the young man's eagerness to get treatment and his frustration at being refused were understandable, but this was no excuse to kick a doctor or for family members to assault and obstruct security guards. The man is now facing a three year prison sentence.

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