Chinese Hospitals Are Battlegrounds of Discontent

The New York Times reports on hostility between patients’ families and doctors in Chinese , and a plan to install police officers in hospital administration positions in Shenyang to ward off violent attacks:

Over the past year, families of deceased patients have forced doctors to don mourning clothes as a sign of atonement for poor care, and organized protests to bar hospital entrances. Four years ago, 2,000 people rioted at a hospital after reports that a 3-year-old was refused treatment because his grandfather could not pay $82 in upfront fees. The child died.

Such episodes are to some extent standard fare in China, where protests over myriad issues have been on the rise. Officials at all levels of government are on guard against unrest that could spiral and threaten the Communist Party’s power.

Doctors and nurses say the strains in the relations between them and patients’ relatives are often the result of unrealistic expectations by poor families who, having traveled far and exhausted their savings on care, expect medical miracles.

But the violence also reflects much wider discontent with China’s public system. Although the government, under Communist leadership, once offered rudimentary health care at nominal prices, it pulled back in the 1990s, leaving hospitals largely to fend for themselves in the new market economy.

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