NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Chinese Hospitals Are Battlegrounds of Discontent

August 12, 2010

Chinese hospitals are dangerous places to work, says the New York Times.  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.

For instance:

  • In June alone, a doctor was stabbed to death in Shandong Province by the son of a patient who had died of liver cancer.
  • Three doctors were severely burned in Shanxi Province when a patient set fire to a hospital office.
  • A pediatrician in Fujian Province was also injured after leaping out a fifth-floor window to escape angry relatives of a newborn who had died under his care.
  • Over the past year, families of deceased patients have forced doctors to don mourning clothes as a sign of atonement for poor care, and organized protests to bar hospital entrances.
  • Four years ago, 2,000 people rioted at a hospital after reports that a 3-year-old was refused treatment because his grandfather could not pay $82 in upfront fees; the child died.

Such episodes are to some extent standard fare in China, where protests over myriad issues have been on the rise, says the Times.  Officials at all levels of government are on guard against unrest that could spiral and threaten the Communist Party's power.

Doctors and nurses say the strains in the relations between them and patients' relatives are often the result of unrealistic expectations by poor families who, having traveled far and exhausted their savings on care, expect medical miracles.

But the violence also reflects much wider discontent with China's public health care system, says the Times.  Although the government, under Communist leadership, once offered rudimentary health care at nominal prices, it pulled back in the 1990s, leaving hospitals largely to fend for themselves in the new market economy.

  • By 2000, the World Health Organization ranked China's health system as one of the world's most inequitable, 188th among 191 nations.
  • Nearly two of every five sick people went untreated.
  • Only one in 10 had health insurance.

Source: Sharon LaFraniere, "Chinese Hospitals Are Battlegrounds of Discontent," New York Times, August 11, 2010.

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues