Thursday, May 24, 2012

China - Doctors face physical harm in China

SHANGHAI: "You can contact us again if you have any questions. No problem. Take care of your health," the doctor said, speaking to a patient over the phone.

All his patients have his mobile number. They call him any time, and at all hours of the day.

34-year-old Bian Zheng Qian from the Shanghai Renji Hospital's surgery department knows the importance of communication because he says patients often need a lot of advice and reassurance.

With nine years of medical experience, he has seen what can happen when that communication and trust breaks down.

"A director from general surgery was beaten up by a patient's relative. He suffered epidural hematoma caused by the assault on his head," Mr Bian said.

"The patient died from pulmonary embolism when there was a sudden blockage of his lung artery during his stay in hospital.

"The patient had not even had surgery but his family started to make trouble. The family member barricaded all the entrances to the hospital, and beat up the director."

"When the police arrived, he even wounded the policemen," he added.

Hospitals in China are seeing more and more of such violence targeted at doctors.

In another example, two female doctors were beaten up by a young university graduate who was a relative of a patient they did not even know.

The university graduate had brought an elderly man to the emergency department, but decided to bring him home after the graduate got impatient with the long waiting time, Mr Bian recounted.

The elderly patient died two days later.

"The young man vented his wrath on the hospital for making him wait so long at the Emergency department. He beat up two female doctors he didn't even know," Mr Bian said.

"One of them ended up with a concussion and the other with hematuria and kidney contusion. He even kicked her a few times when she fell to the floor."

Dr Bian does not share these stories with his parents because he does not want them to worry.

"They're worried and tell me not come into conflict with patients. They tell me to run first, if I encounter any danger," he said.

Dr Bian said there was "an unwritten rule in all major hospitals -- the windows in the emergency department are always open, even in the coldest or hottest weather, no matter how many mosquitoes there are.

"Just in case anything happens, quickly jump out of the window and run."

The Chinese government has announced stricter measures to clamp down on those who hurt or threaten doctors and hospital staff.

Some hospitals have also increased security and surveillance efforts to protect their staff.

These measures may be a deterrent, but doctors said the unpredictability of attacks makes them difficult to prevent.

- CNA/wm

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