By Oiwan Lam.
A retired dentist in southern China named Chen Zhongwei succumbed to his injuries two days after he was stabbed 30 times by a former patient. His death, which came a few weeks after college student Wei Zexi passed away of cancer after spending thousands of dollars on a phony treatment, has once again thrust China’s medical system into a harsh light.
Since the country’s health sector was further privatized by lifting a ban on private hospitals in 2000, the number of medical scams have increased rapidly and frontline medical professionals have become a target for violence by frustrated patients. In 2014, there were at least 155 criminal cases involved injuries or death of healthcare workers.
Chen Zhongwei in Guangzhou was the latest victim. He reportedly had overseen the attacker’s dental veneers 25 years ago (some reports said 10 years ago). His former patient demanded compensation recently because the veneers had become discolored, but the hospital rejected him because the treatment was only meant to last 10 years. The attacker killed himself by jumping off a building after stabbing Chen.
While it’s certainly not normal for a patient rebuffed to take such extreme and deadly measures, the case has drawn attention to the worsening doctor-patient relationship in China. Han Yiwei, a writer from KDnet, a popular journalist forum, pointed out:
The writer further pointed to the problem of the unregulated Putian hospitals, a network of medical entrepreneurs that operate nearly 8,000 private hospitals, representing more than 70 percent of the whole national market. As it is so difficult to get entry into good public hospitals, quality medical treatment has become a “privilege”:
While the unregulated private hospital sector is a major source of chaos, violence also stems from the absence of independent authority to investigate on medical errors. One journalist wrote on his account on popular social media platform Weibo:
Medical professionals have become in a way punching bags for all kinds of social injustices, as Yang Zheng, a senior medial expert pointed out on his WeChat’s public account last year (via CN healthcare.com), explained:
Chen’s death has had a tremendous impact on the medical sector, which has suffered from serious brain drain. On May 7, hundreds of medical professionals and Guangzhou residents gathered at the city’s Hero Square to mourn him. Twitter user @Jiang Bo, who attended the vigil, pointed out that the fate of doctors and patients are intertwined:
— Jiang Bo (@Jiangbo_0516) May 8, 2016
You paid attention to Wei Zexi’s death, I mourned for Chen Zhongwei. You don’t see that when doctors become Chen Zhongwei, you all become Wei Zexi. Both are victims of the same set of problems.