Chinese Doctors, Under Strain and Threat, Call for Support in Video


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Hospital workers protested against attacks on medical personnel outside No. 1 People’s Hospital in Wenling, Zhejiang Province, on Oct. 28, 2013, after a man stabbed three doctors, killing one. The sign on the left says: “Restore my dignity.”Credit Jin Yunguo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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“For a doctor, to see a child happily leave the hospital, that’s a true feeling of happiness and satisfaction,” says Dr. Xu Tong, the head of pediatrics at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, in a new video compilation of interviews with Chinese physicians.

The video, which focuses on both daily burdens and joys, was produced in response to the extreme pressures that China’s medical professionals are facing from long hours, low pay and the threat of violence from patients and their families.

It was released in conjunction with an online pledge calling for respect for doctors that has received more than 130,000 signatures, according to The Paper, a news outlet based in Shanghai.

The pledge reads: “Respect doctors, respect life. Rationally communicate, resist violence. Mutual trust, consideration for one another. Defend life, the common struggle!”

A separate petition issued in response to a violent attack on a doctor in Guangzhou this month received about 600,000 signatures from medical personnel calling for better treatment, according to state news media reports.

The four-and-a-half-minute video includes interviews with 17 doctors in Shanghai and Beijing. It begins with descriptions of the difficulties doctors face.

“Sometimes you have more than 100 patients to see. You don’t even have time to take a drink of water,” said Qiao Yan, deputy director of the department of cardiology and internal medicine at Beijing Anzhen Hospital.

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People lining up at a hospital in Shanghai to make an appointment to see a doctor. Among the challenges doctors cite are long hours and heavy caseloads.Credit Aly Song/Reuters

A discussion of the threats of violence soon follows.

“Every few days you hear of a doctor being attacked somewhere, even killed,” said Wu Xiabo, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine in Beijing. “The psychological burden of working in this type of environment is very great.”

A recent white paper on the state of the medical field in China said that nearly 60 percent of doctors endured some sort of verbal abuse last year, and 13 percent had been assaulted, The Paper reported.

Medical experts say the reasons for such attacks include long waiting times for treatment, high medical costs, corruption and a lack of trust that courts can resolve malpractice cases.

Some hospitals have stepped up security, and the government has pushed new malpractice regulations, but amid declining morale, medical personnel are trying to cultivate public respect for the profession.

The video ends with doctors speaking proudly of their work. “Some people say, ‘My child had two lives: one that began at birth, and one that began upon meeting you,’ ” says Dr. Zheng Wei, a pediatrician at Beijing United Family Hospital.

Dr. Zhao Dong, a gynecologist in Shanghai, says: “Doctors and patients are all one family. Our goal is the same.”



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