Doctor exposes China’s medical corruption epidemic

MIANYANG: Ordering an unnecessary pacemaker, urging a woman to be hospitalised for a sore throat — a doctor’s allegations of corruption spotlight troubles so endemic in China’s healthcare system that patients frequently turn violent. 

Lan Yuefeng, a former hospital ultrasound chief, ignited fury when she accused her hospital of exploiting the sick by routinely overprescribing medicine and treatment. 

“I think it’s pretty common, and I think it’s really sad,” she told AFP

Lan was put on leave two years ago but has continued showing up to work in Mianyang, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, earning domestic media attention and the nickname “corridor doctor”.

But her colleagues have ostracised her, going on strike to protest her dragging down the state-run facility’s reputation and voting this month that she should be dismissed. 

Yet ordering excess drugs and treatment, and taking bribes from patients and drugmakers, are open secrets in China’s over-burdened health sector.

The failings of the system provoke so much anger that reports routinely emerge of patients attacking and killing medical personnel.

In April a 45-year-old man unhappy with his circumcision stabbed a doctor to death in the eastern province of Jiangsu. Three months earlier a man was sentenced to death for killing an ear, nose and throat specialist in neighbouring Zhejiang.

Nearly two-thirds of hospitals reported violence between patients and healthcare providers in 2012, up from about half five years earlier, domestic media cited the China Hospital Association as saying last year.

Hospitals each averaged 27 incidents against staff, from threats to killings, up from 21 over the same period, it said.

Meanwhile 80 per cent of Chinese said accessing a doctor was hard and 95 per cent said care was expensive, the Horizon Research Consultancy Group found last year.

The costs are  rising partly because hospitals depend on selling drugs and medical services for nearly 90 per cent of their income, said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in the US and author of Governing Health in Contemporary China.

“There’s a strong incentive for the healthcare providers to provide over-treatment, over-service, in order to maximise revenue,” he said.

“Their bonuses are actually associated with that. It’s not just the hospitals, it’s the  ..


 

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