Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The stark reality of Chinese healthcare: pay up or die

by Michael Woodhead
The case of a Wuhan doctor who paid 26,000 yuan (US$4300) in medical expenses for a critically ill young man out of his own pocket has highlighted the grim reality of the 'user pays' medical treatment in China.
The Beijing News reports the case of a doctor called Hou Lixing who paid the medical bills for a 17-year old impoverished youth who needed an urgent blood transfusion and operation for a intestinal  haemorrhage. The report says the youth known as Xiao Zhou was a migrant worker who had come to Wuhan to find a job to help pay for the upkeep of his ailing grandfather. However, at the weekend he was taken ill with severe abdominal pain and taken to a Wuhan Hospital for TCM. Dr Hou treated him there and quickly realised that the illness was critical and that the young man needed to be transferred to a larger hospital for a blood transfusion as he was severely anaemic. The doctor paid 2000 yuan in immediate treatment fees from his own pocket as Xiao Zhou did not have more than a few hundred dollars. Dr Hou then accompanied the youth to the next hospital, where the patient's condition continued to be serious for several more days. When informed that Xiao Zhou needed further urgent treatment to prevent him from dying, Dr Hou signed the forms and eventually paid medical bills for a further 24,000 yuan.
The youth's condition eventually stabilised and he is now said to be recovering.  The case has been widely reported in the media as an example of how doctor-patient relations can be good, in contrast to the many recent episodes of violence against doctors by patients an their families. Dr Hou is said to have a reputation for doing good deeds. He said he felt sorry for the youth as he was a filial son with a good heart, but had no money. Dr Hou is quoted as saying "Being a doctor is a duty, being a human means playing your part."

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