The Flimsy Wall of China – Melinda Liu

051022 Birdflu90V2 From The Newsweek: It may be the epicenter of an epidemic, and its health-care system is in tatters. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Nobody in Zhang Rong’s village in coastal China knows much about the danger of a bird-flu pandemic. The 37-year-old farmer has enough to worry about. A nearby business park wants to take over her mushroom farm. Neighbors are dying of untreated cancers that some believe came from eating pesticide-tainted produce. One tenth of the family’s annual income is spent on medical expenses, including sending Zhang’s two kids to a public hospital when they get sick. Much of that cash goes into so-called red envelopes”bribes”for doctors who otherwise prescribe expensive medicines in retaliation for not getting a “gift.” Few of the 4,000 villagers have medical insurance. “The government doesn’t pay for a thing,” she gripes. Ask about and Zhang tosses out a chilling wish: “I hope bird flu ravages China”to prove to the leadership what’s wrong with health care in the countryside.”

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