Last Wednesday, a patient unhappy about the result of an operation on his nose stabbed a doctor to death and wondered another two at a hospital in the city of Wenling, Zhejiang province. Fast forward to today, the hospital has been surrounded by anti-riot police, clashing with doctors and nurses who have been trying to protest their friend’s dead body. The incident highlights the growing tension within China’s healthcare system.
A 33-year-old man who was unhappy about a minor surgery on his nose went back to the ear, nose and throat clinic of the First People’s Hospital in Wenling on October 25. Unable to find the doctor who treated him, he pulled out a knife and stabbed the head of the clinic instead. He stabbed another two doctors before being restrained by hospital security. The head of the clinic, a Mr. Wang, was dead, and the other two doctors were severely injured.
To “maintain stability,” local authorities ordered that the body of doctor Wang to be cremated as soon as possible. His friends and co-workers at the hospital, not surprisingly, said no. That’s when local anti-riot police came and the standoff started.
Doctor Wang Weijie, one of doctors who’s been wounded in the attack, was at the front line of the confrontation: “Over my dead body!”
“If we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one would.” He continued.
Violence against China’s doctors is on the rise in recent years due to poor patient-doctor communication, high healthcare cost and a general lack of medical resources. Most medical disputes in China end up with the hospitals apologizing to the patient’s family with money, even when the doctors have done nothing wrong.
Just on the same day of the patient-doctor murder in Wenling, 18 hospitals in Shanghai have decided to hire extra security personnel to cope with rising patient-doctor disputes – one security guard per 20 beds.
The Wenling case could have been nothing but another patient-doctor violence in a sea of other similar cases. The only reason why it’s still making waves on China’s social media after several days is that this time, the doctors and nurses in Wenling decided to make a point.
They’ve been protesting against violent crimes at hospitals, calling for a restoration of respect for medical personnel. “Intellectuals like doctors are timid, but that’s until their bottom line is crossed.” Commented a fellow doctor 云浦陈才隽.
The message is very well echoed by other medical personnel throughout the country. In a gesture to mourn for the death of doctor Wang, medical staff across China have been posting calls for zero tolerance of violence against doctors.
Contrary to being a doctor in many other countries, doctors in China have deteriorated into a profession that’s neither well paid nor well respected. Outside Wenling First People’s Hospital, one doctor wrote his life advice on his uniform:
“Don’t be a doctor – if you are after wealth and power, please find another profession. If you’re afraid of being killed, please find another profession.”
Voices of support from other hospitals across China:
“The personal safety of medical personnel cannot be violated.”
“Give us back our lives. Give us back the respect.”