Nov 04, 2013

    Why patients and relatives harm China's doctors


    TWO weeks ago in Guangdong province, Dr Xiong Xuming was left with a damaged eye and ruptured spleen after being beaten up by a patient's relatives for refusing to allow them into the intensive-care unit.

    Days later in Zhejiang province, Dr Wang Yunjie was stabbed to death by a patient unhappy with his treatment.

    The attacks were just two of at least six serious altercations in the past two weeks and part of a larger trend.

    The China Hospital Association says medical staff are attacked by patients or their relatives at a rate of once every two weeks per hospital, according to Chinese news agencies.

    In a sign that the Chinese government is seriously concerned by the mounting violence, Prime Minister Li Keqiang addressed the issue this week.

    Mr Li was "paying utmost attention" to the situation and had written "important comments" requesting all government departments to take the problem seriously, according to a post on the government's official Tencent Weibo, or microblog, account.

    China's health-care system has been troubled by a widespread lack of trust in doctors and hospital administrators; the high cost of care, long waiting times and short appointments - and corruption at every level.

    The turn to violence to address such issues appears to be driven by factors that include the expense of treatments, which can bankrupt families. People who exhaust their savings on care want to see positive results and blame doctors when that is not possible, analysts say.

    After the death of Dr Wang, the Chinese Medical Doctors Association and three other professional groups issued a statement urging the government to better protect medical staff.

    "Why are doctors being injured without cease?" the statement asked. "In order to save lives, doctors and patients should become friends, not enemies," it said.