China 'Losing Faith' in the Medical Profession

2013-03-19
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AIDS patients receive treatments at a clinic in eastern China's Anhui province, Nov. 28, 2011.
AIDS patients receive treatments at a clinic in eastern China's Anhui province, Nov. 28, 2011.
AFP

Only 10 percent of Chinese people under medical care trust their doctor, a new survey has found, highlighting a crisis of confidence in the country's health care system.

The survey of patients at 30 hospitals in eastern China quoted in a parliamentary advisory body debate earlier this month painted a picture of a fragmented health care system, with the best medical resources over-concentrated in some areas and scarce in others, the Guangzhou Daily News reported this week.

Doctors were in a state of physical and mental exhaustion, and were rarely able to explain things fully or to reassure worried patients, the survey found.

The survey found that more than 70 percent of medical disputes, which are increasingly common across China, were due to a lack of communication between doctors and patients.

The paper quoted parliamentary adviser Xu Shuqiang, director of the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, as saying that Chinese health care professionals have a poor attitude and exhibit a general lack of care.

Moral decline?

Hu Zongyi, an expert at the National Institutes of Health, said the survey reflects a sharp decline in doctor-patient relations in China in recent years, which he largely blamed on a money-grabbing attitude among health care institutions.

"This affects society as a whole, and the overall moral decline has meant that people don't know whom to trust," Hu said. "Everyone is thinking about money."

"Of course doctors want their patients to get better, because ... that makes them feel they are successful," he said. "But doctors look at everyone else busy making money, and they come up with schemes of their own."

Hu said doctors frequently receive "red packets" of gift money and commissions on pharmaceuticals to supplement their paychecks.

"Those who can afford to pay, pay up, but the more vulnerable groups in society can't afford it ... and this has an unbalancing effect and causes a lot of conflict," he said.

Liao Ran, an Asia program officer for the Berlin-based anti-corruption group Transparency International, said that many Chinese lack access to health insurance, and that the doctors with the best reputations are overworked.

"If you want to get the best doctors, you have to give extra gifts of money," he said. "Under today's system in China, the best doctors are paid the same as the less accomplished."

"There is also no way of sanctioning doctors who lack professional ethics," Liao said. "This has a detrimental effect on professional morals."

"Under such circumstances, everyone has pretty much lost faith in the medical profession," he said.

'A normal life'

Official media reported recently that the children of doctors have said they wouldn't ever consider taking up the profession themselves.

Liao said many doctors had told him that their children would never consider entering the medical profession.

"You are utterly exhausted every day, and you can't have a normal life, because you are working late and you don't get home until 9.00 or 10.00 p.m.," he said.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted a provincial health official in the eastern province of Jiangsu as saying that medical disputes are increasing sharply, blaming "a previous shortage of resources" for the problem.

Reported by Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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