Call for doctor-patient reform




A recent attack on doctors in east China has sparked public outrage and debate - with how to improve doctor-patient relationships and the medical system as a whole top of the agenda.


Wang Yunjie was deputy head of the ear, nose and throat department of the No. 1 People's Hospital in Wenling City, eastern Zhejiang Province.

On Oct. 25, he was stabbed by a knife-wielding man when performing outpatient care.

He died at the age of 47. And the well-respected doctor's death had shocked his colleagues and patients.

The suspect, Lian Enqing, 33, was subdued in the hospital by security staff after assaulting Wang and two other doctors.

The man is currently in detention.

The killing stirred outrage among medical staff in the city.

Police say the suspect was a patient of another doctor in the hospital and was unhappy with the results of a minor nose operation.

This is not the first case medical personnel being attacked in China.

According to a sample survey by the Chinese Hospital Association, violence toward medical staff is on the rise.

The annual average number of assaults on doctors per hospital increased from 20.6 in 2008 to 27.3 in 2012.

According to the survey, unsatisfactory treatment, poor communication between patients and doctors, distorted media reports and high medical costs were blamed for most of the assaults.

Due to huge work pressure and mediocre income, some medical staff have been reported to have broken rules in dealing with patients.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) HE QIANG, Director, Nephrology Dept., Zhejiang People's Hospital:

"Patients spend a lot coming to good hospitals for renowned doctors. But sometimes they find the treatment is of no help to their recovery. Worse still, some medical staff are bad-tempered and impatient. This aggravates the situation and there can be conflicts and misunderstandings between doctors and patients."

The doctor-patient dispute has also been a result of the unbalanced demand and supply of medical resources, and from insufficient social security.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) YU MIAOXIANG, Deputy Director, Wenling Health Bureau:

"Medical costs are increasing rapidly and they can't all be covered by social security. So people complain about the high fees and blame medical staff."

Industry insiders say the root of the distrust and strain lie in the fact that hospitals subsidize their medical services by prescribing expensive drugs.

And some say the fact that money is involved has changed the doctor-patient dynamic.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) YU ENYAN, Party Secretary, Zhejiang People's Hospital:

"This is directly related to our current medical system. The development of hospitals relies on the profits gained from the patients. So this definitely gives rise to conflicts of interest."

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) HE QIANG, Director, Nephrology Dept., Zhejiang People's Hospital:

"Medicine is science. A disease doesn't always follow set rules in its generation, development and recovery. So medical treatment can't be simply regarded as a form of service trading."

Experts say it's necessary to promote medical system reform to transform the doctor-patient relationship.

They say public hospitals should abandon expensive drug prescriptions and operate for the public good.

Treatment procedures should be simplified with more convenient services.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) YANG JING, Director, Zhejiang Health Department:

"There needs to be comprehensive reform from top to bottom. That can't be undertaken by a single province or a city. Central government needs to take the lead in planning basic medicine system and public hospital reform and departments should then cooperate with any suggestions."

China's Ministry of Public Security has promised a zero tolerance approach to violence and other crimes targeting medical staff.

Police have been tasked with helping to resolve disputes and improve security in hospitals.