Two hospitals in Xian involved in recent scandals while under Covid-19 lockdown – resulting in a death and a miscarriage – have been ordered to close temporarily and review their operations.
There has been public outrage in China after Xian Gaoxin Hospital denied access to an eight-month pregnant woman, resulting in her miscarriage, and Xian International Medical Centre refused to admit a man who subsequently died of a heart attack.
Earlier this month the woman’s admission to hospital was delayed because it insisted on seeing a negative Covid-19 test result, which she could not show in time, and the man was refused admission because he lived in an area deemed a risk for coronavirus infection.
The two hospitals will suspend operations for three months from Thursday because of their delay in the “rescue and treatment of patients with acute and critical illnesses”, Xian health authorities said.
A working plan has since been issued to help manage the shortage of medical resources caused by the suspensions.
The manager of Xian Gaoxin Hospital was suspended and staff in charge of the outpatient, obstetrics and medical departments were dismissed.
At Xian International Medical Centre the managing director was fired and the hospital’s deputy director and the head nurse of the outpatient department were suspended, according to the announcement.
Since early January, the city has used disciplinary action to hold local officials accountable for their epidemic controls: Warnings were issued to two top officials in Xian Emergency Centre and its municipal health commission, Xian’s big data chief was suspended and two district-level officials were dismissed from their posts.
According to local media, at least 31 government officials have faced disciplinary action, including suspension, dismissal or warnings since last month.
Xian – home to 13 million people – has been under a strict lockdown since Dec 23, and residents have complained about difficulties accessing medical care.
There have been at least four deaths after people were denied admission to hospital, including two pregnant women losing their babies, a 61-year-old man who died of a heart attack and a 39-year-old man who died suddenly after experiencing chest pain.
In the wake of the deaths, Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan warned medical institutions not to refuse care to patients for any reason.
“It showed that outbreak prevention work had problems with not being sufficiently strict or down to earth. The lesson learned was deep,” she was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Xian authorities have now banned hospitals from refusing admission to people who do not have a negative test result from within the previous 48 hours.
Case numbers in Xian have waned in recent days, with six new infections reported on Thursday – the lowest daily tally – for a total of 2,031 since the start of the outbreak on Dec 9.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.