Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hazardous Work

Background story in New York Times
SHENYANG, China — Forget the calls by many Chinese patients for more honest, better-qualified doctors. What this city’s 27 public hospitals really needed, officials decided last month, was police officers.

And not just at the entrance, but as deputy administrators. The goal: to keep disgruntled patients and their relatives from attacking the doctors.

The decision was quickly reversed after Chinese health experts assailed it, arguing that the police were public servants, not doctors’ personal bodyguards.

But officials in this northeastern industrial hub of nearly eight million people had a point. Chinese hospitals are dangerous places to work. In 2006, the last year the Health Ministry published statistics on hospital violence, attacks by patients or their relatives injured more than 5,500 medical workers.

I talked to my friend in Beijing yesterday and she said she didn't leave the hospital until 5am after an emergency surgery. She works for a company that distributes aortic grafts in China so each time a product is used, she has to be in the operating room to provide technical support. She said the operation started at ~11pm and the elderly patient died on the operating table after 5 hours due to massive internal bleeding. After the unsuccessful procedure, about 30 of the patient's relatives surrounded the OR and would not let the doctors and staff leave saying they wanted questions answered. The hospital had to call the police to clear the protesters. It turns out they didn't want to pay the RMB300k medical bill even though they consented to the surgery. My friend said she was a bit worried but too tired to care, and ended up taking a nap on an empty operating table.

Harmonious society indeed...


Dealing with angry relatives is just one crappy part about my friend's job. Since she is in sales, her customers (doctors and hospital administrators) treat her like their personal assistant. During the huge traffic jam last Friday (post below), she was stuck on the road on the way to the airport to pick up a client doctor; the 40 minute drive to the airport took ~2.5 hours. He was returning from a business trip that was unrelated to my friend's company or product yet he called her to pick him up from the airport. My friend also caught a cold on Thursday yet still felt obligated to go. He could have easily taken a taxi or called a car service. She said this kind of stuff (clients making her run their personal errands) happens all the time. Her boss knows this too so he hires young single females to work in sales.

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