Why Gov’t-Run Healthcare Has Become A Focal Point For Vigilante Violence In China

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

China has launched a one-year campaign to reduce violent attacks on doctors and hospitals by Chinese citizens outraged by the country’s failing healthcare system.

In hospitals in China, it is not uncommon for patients to wait for hours for a five-minute consultation. A sudden inability to pay for treatment can sometimes result in patients being tossed out onto the street. Also, as hospitals are understaffed and doctors are overworked, medical mishaps happen more often than they should. The weaknesses of the healthcare system have pushed many Chinese citizens over the edge.

Nine government departments jointly distributed information Monday about a new campaign to crackdown on and deter violence at Chinese hospitals. The release is the Chinese government’s latest move since a nationwide ban on hospital violence was issued in July. Ecns.cn reported that Beijing is preparing to pilot security checkpoints at local hospitals and surveillance equipment will be installed in most major facilities. The Sina News Center said that armed police units now have the authority to use force against unruly citizens targeting medical staff.

Police have been instructed to keep an eye out for individuals prone to inciting violence, such as drunks, people with violent tendencies, and individuals with mental disorders.

The hospital violence crisis, which is known as “yi nao,” has been steadily escalating in China over the years. The broken Chinese healthcare system has infuriated many Chinese citizens, pushing them towards rash and reckless behavior.

In May, 60-year-old retired dentist Chen Zhongwei was stabbed to death by a former patient whose teeth became discolored after treatment. The attacker assaulted Chen in his home and then jumped off the balcony, killing himself. This event sparked a public outcry. Citizens complained in mass about China’s healthcare situation, claiming that the system has turned doctors and nurses into scapegoats.

That same week, a doctor in Chongqing was attacked and stabbed by a friend of one of his patients, and later that day, a doctor in Jiangxi province was assaulted and severely beaten by the relatives of a patient, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

Not long after Chen Zhongwei’s death, family members of a patient waiting to be treated at Shaodong County People’s Hospital in Hunan Province, attacked ear, nose, and throat specialist Wang Jun. A blow to the head critically injured Wang, who died a few hours later despite tireless attempts by hospital staff to save the man’s life. The New York Times said the family members felt that the “doctors were not vigorous in treating patients.”

Chinese doctors have been attacked for everything from the death of patients to simply being five minutes late for a consultation.

Xinhua reported that in 2014 alone, Chinese police arrested 1,425 people associated with 1,349 cases of hospital violence and responded to a total of 4,599 “security incidents.” Each year, there are over 100,000 disputes over failed treatments and dysfunction within the Chinese healthcare system.

The Chinese government has set up a dispute management system as a social safety net. Furthermore, hospitals have been instructed to avoid paying off disgruntled individuals prior to a formal settlement meetings, for this encourages Chinese citizens to riot at hospitals in an attempt to extort funds out of frightened doctors and nurses. These approaches are helping to alleviate some of the problems, but the Chinese government recognizes that more is needed to reverse this trend.

Because of the growing threat to medical professionals, morale at Chinese hospitals has sunk to an all-time low, and fewer students are enrolling in medical school, reported the South China Morning Post.

Becoming a doctor was once seen as an impressive achievement in China, but this career is now threatened as a troubled system puts targets on the backs of medical professionals.

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