Not Only Patients Suffer in China’s Broken Healthcare System, Medical Professionals Do Too

(Image: DarkoStojanovic via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

A retired dentist in southern China named Chen Zhongwei succumbed to his injuries two days after he was stabbed 30 times by a former patient. His death, which came a few weeks after college student Wei Zexi passed away of cancer after spending thousands of dollars on a phony treatment, has once again thrust China’s medical system into a harsh light.

Since the country’s health sector was further privatized with the lifting of the ban on private hospitals in 2000, the number of medical scams have increased rapidly and frontline medical professionals have become a target for violence by frustrated patients. In 2014, there were at least 155 criminal cases involved injuries or death of healthcare workers.

Chen Zhongwei in Guangzhou was the latest victim. He reportedly had overseen the attacker’s dental veneers 25 years ago (some reports said 10 years ago). His former patient demanded compensation recently because the veneers had become discolored, but the hospital rejected him because the treatment was only meant to last 10 years. The attacker killed himself by jumping off a building after stabbing Chen.

While it’s certainly not normal for a patient rebuffed to take such extreme and deadly measures, the case has drawn attention to the worsening doctor-patient relationship in China. Han Yiwei, a writer from KDnet, a popular journalist forum, pointed out:

The writer further pointed to the problem of the unregulated Putian hospitals, a network of medical entrepreneurs that operate nearly 8,000 private hospitals, representing more than 70 percent of the whole national market. As it is so difficult to get entry into good public hospitals, quality medical treatment has become a “privilege:”

While the unregulated private hospital sector is a major source of chaos, violence also stems from the absence of independent authority to investigate on medical errors. One journalist wrote on his account on popular social media platform Weibo:

Medical professionals have become, in a way, punching bags for all kinds of social injustices, as Yang Zheng, a senior medial expert pointed out on his WeChat’s public account last year (via CN, explained:

Chen’s death has had a tremendous impact on the medical sector, which has suffered from serious brain drain. On May 7, hundreds of medical professionals and Guangzhou residents gathered at the city’s Hero Square to mourn him. Twitter user @Jiang Bo, who attended the vigil, pointed out that the fate of doctors and patients are intertwined:

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This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices.

[Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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