Guards for China doctors

Guards for China doctors

Beijing is looking at volunteer "guardian angels" to protect doctors against increasing violence from angry patients.

The campaign in the Chinese capital will recruit students, medical workers and even other patients as middlemen between doctors and patients to smooth over tensions, the official Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

Doctors in China have come under increasing threat as the country's health-care system struggles to cope with a lack of doctors, poor training and rampant corruption that inflates the price of care.

This has led to a number of fatal attacks by patients on doctors in the past year.

"Patients will understand doctors better after talking with our volunteers," said Mr Feng Guosheng, head of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Hospitals.

He added that services would include "hospital guidance" and "psychological intervention".


After a rise in attacks, China's government stepped up security at hospitals earlier this year, posting police at some centres and increasing surveillance.

In February, a doctor in northern Heilongjiang province was beaten to death by an angry patient. Last October, a doctor was stabbed.

The Beijing campaign will recruit more than 1,500 volunteers to serve a one-year term across 21 hospitals in the capital, Xinhua reported, citing another city official Wei Jiang.

Authorities have previously said they will toughen punishment of those who cause disruption in medical institutions.

In February, the health ministry cracked down on "red envelope" bribes offered for quicker and better treatment. The bribes are often a cause of tension because it raises the price that patients have to pay for care.

Providing affordable, accessible healthcare is one of the key platforms of President Xi Jinping's new government.

But China's health-care bill is set to hit US$1 trillion (S$1.2 trillion) by 2020, according to a 2012 report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co.


This article was published on April 10 in The New Paper.

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