Monday, 4 August 2014

Police set up 'safe rooms' in 90% of Henan hospitals

Setting up police-supervised safe rooms  has helped curb three major problems in Henan hospitals: violent attacks against staff, organised gangs of scalpers and theft.

The 'independent police service rooms' have been set up primarily to provide a place where frustrated patients can have their grievances attended to without them posing a physical risk of assault to hospital staff. According to CNTV, the rooms are staffed by police with protective gear and the rooms are equipped with panic buttons and camera surveillance equipment in case things get out of hand when emotions run high between doctors and patients.

The police presence also helps to curb the presence of organised gangs of scalpers who lurk around hospitals, selling registration tickets that help those with money jump the queue and avoid waits of many hours to get in to see a doctor. These same gangs also use their 'muscle' to intimidate staff on behalf of aggrieved families in an attempt to extort compensation - from which they take their cut.

"We feel a lot safer now. It provides an open platform for us to communicate with the patients, and it helps us solve medical disputes. Also, there's been less theft,"  said a senior doctor at a hospital in Zhengzhou that had installed a police room.

After a series of high profile assaults and killings of medical staff in recent months, China has increased penalties for violent disputes against health workers. There have also been reports of riot police being brought into hospitals. However, doctors say the root causes of the problem have not been - an overloaded hospital system in which patients wait hours to see a doctor and then only get a few minutes before being over-prescribed medicines with high markups.

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