Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Dodgy hospital uses call centres to lure bumpkin victims


by MICHAEL WOODHEAD
A backstreet private clinic in Beijing is using call centre staff posing as doctors to lure unsuspecting victims to have expensive and often unnecessary medical procedures. In an expose, a Beijing Times reporter spoke to call centre staff for the Beijing Sande Weiye (三德伟业) clinic, who described their high-pressure sales tactics to bring patients in for high tech and often unproven treatments such as 'stem cell' technology for arthritis.

The call centre staff said they were given a script and a template to respond to phone inquiries coming from people who had been deceived by fake websites and Baidu advertisements that claimed their 'hospital' was affiliated with prestigious major hospitals in the capital. When answering calls, the sales staff said they were doctors but in reality they were unqualified and just ran through a script whose aim was to convince callers that they could jump the queue and get access to top specialists at the city hospitals. Most of the callers tended to be gullible out-of-towners who were seeking treatment in the capital rather than rely on the more basic and underfunded rural hospitals.

Sales staff told the reporter that they were pressured to get the caller's mobile, after which they would make a series of promises and phone calls to establish a relationship with the prospective customer. They were paid on commission: 2 yuan for getting a call, 20 yuan for getting a registration (ie phone number and verbal contract) with the 'network' and 60 yuan for a hospital visit. The sales person also got a cut of the treatment fees and drug fees. A successful telesales operator could make 5000 yuan in this way. The treatments offered were often high technology - such as joint replacement - and were offered regardless of whether they were really appropriate for that patient.

When the reporter visited the 'hospital' he found it to be just a standard clinic with unscrupulous doctors offering treatments that were much higher in price than the same treatment in public hospitals. A knee replacement, for example was priced at 60,000 yuan.

When the reporter informed the top three hospitals that their name (and reputation) was being hijacked to promote a bogus clinic they said they did not have the staff or resources to chase up the many such cases they heard about from complaints. They suggested the fraud be reported to the Public Security Bureau, but the PSB said they would only follow up complaint from people who had been swindled and who had evidence to show criminal behaviour. They instead suggested that the reporter called the consumer affairs bureau.

The Beijing Industry and Commerce Bureau  told reporters that any company making false propaganda, should be reported to the bureau's hotline and would be investigated, with fines and business license suspensions for offenders..

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