China hospitals vow to enhance security following attacks

SHANGHAI - Hospital authorities in Zhejiang province have promised to improve the protection of medical workers, as mourning continues for a doctor in the province who was stabbed to death last week.

Wang Yunjie, 46, chief physician of the ear, nose and throat department at First People's Hospital of Wenling, was killed on Friday. Police say his assailant was Lian Enqing, who was unsatisfied with surgery he had at the department last year.

Lian, 33, a native of Wenling, also allegedly injured two other physicians in the attack, which led to calls from Chinese healthcare workers for an end to violence against medical staff.

Wang's memorial service is scheduled for 7 am on Thursday at the Wenling funeral home. Zheng Zhijian, assistant president of First People's Hospital, said on Wednesday that a large crowd is expected to attend.

Zheng said the hospital resolved a conflict on Sunday between hospital staff members and its leaders over how to deal with the victim's body, and more personnel have been added to protect the hospital.

But the move failed to dispel concerns of some of the hospital's medical workers.

"I don't understand why guards who protect money for banks can have nightsticks, but the staff protecting humans are empty-handed except for walkie-talkies," said a medical worker in the ear, nose and throat department, who declined to give her name.

In response to the concern, Zheng, the assistant president, said the hospital's security guards have been properly equipped.

After the attack, Zhejiang provincial authorities pledged to enhance security at medical institutions and set up a system of handling disputes between patients and doctors.

In an interview with People's Daily on Tuesday, Ma Weihang, deputy chief of the Zhejiang Health Bureau, said his organisation and the provincial public security department have studied a new guideline on hospital security, and urged hospitals to add more hands-on guards and employ full-time security staff. The National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Public Security released the guideline last week.

Ma urged medical institutions in Zhejiang to set up alarms, entrance surveillance systems and security inspection equipment at hospitals where possible.

He also urged the public to handle disputes with hospitals within the legal system.

Ma said dealing with strained doctor-patient relationships is difficult and takes time, adding that key solutions should be further reform of medical systems, improving medical insurance, and preventing hospitals from seeking profits while making them serve the public better.

After the attack, medical workers at other hospitals in Wenling and nearby regions expressed concerns and called for an end to the violence.

Guan Tao, an ophthalmologist at Taizhou Hospital, joined about 100 co-workers in a sit-in outside the hospital's main building on Tuesday morning. Guan said he had broken bones on his lower back when he was attacked by an unhappy patient a month ago.

"Patients taking out their frustrations on doctors inflict not only physical injuries on doctors but also mental duress," Guan said.

Seven people were killed and 28 injured in the 11 violent patient-doctor disputes in 2012. These disputes occurred in eight provinces or regions, including Beijing and Heilongjiang, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said.

Some cities, including Shanghai, have taken measures to improve security at their hospitals, but it still does not meet the guideline's standards.

In Shanghai, most hospitals have guards on patrol and this year 18 hospitals added a special working group to enhance protection in their administrative departments, emergency rooms and other key locations.

But the number of guards at most of the major hospitals is only half of what is required to meet the new guideline.

Under the guideline, a hospital with 3,500 workers or 2,000 beds should have at least 100 security guards, but most of the big hospitals in Shanghai have only 40 to 50 security personnel.