Police beefing up hospital security vigilance

Updated: 2012-05-02 07:39

By Shan Juan and Wang Qingyun (China Daily)

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Police are stepping up their vigilance for people who disrupt the daily operation of hospitals because such acts violate the Security Management and Punishment Law, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Public Security said in a joint announcement on Tuesday.

The statement is part of an effort to better maintain order in hospitals and other medical institutions following a series of violent attacks on medical workers in recent months.

On March 23, an 18-year-old man stabbed a doctor to death and wounded three others in a hospital in Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang province.

Anyone who carries illegal flammable materials, explosives or other items controlled by the government into hospitals, or who insults or threatens medical workers will be held legally accountable, according to the announcement.

People who burn offerings like incense, set up funeral tables and wreaths for patients who died in the hospital and place their bodies outside the morgue for mourning will also be punished, the announcement said.

"Such behaviors, if constituting crimes, will be called to account by the Criminal Law," it said.

The announcement didn't come easy, said Ling Feng, neurosurgery director of Xuanwu Hospital affiliated with Capital Medical University, also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

She had proposed measures to beef up hospital security for five years in a row. "The efforts finally paid off today," she said.

According to Ling, after the annual session of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference this year, the two ministries organized at least two meetings soliciting opinions and ideas from mainly clinical doctors and hospital directors about the announcement.

"Things like setting up funeral tables and displaying bodies of deceased patients were unique to China, and we need the police to help with the response and prevent them from further escalating into violence," she said.

According to a report by Xinhua on April 24, some 53 police stations were set up at 50 hospitals in Beijing to help maintain order and respond to emergencies as quickly as possible after two local doctors were stabbed in two separate cases.

The announcement said organizations and individuals will be stopped from engaging in any activity that disrupts the operation of medical institutions, encroaches on patients' rights, jeopardizes medical workers or damages medical institutions' property.

Ge Le, deputy director of the medical administration department under the Tianjin health bureau, said: "The announcement would help substantially to deter extreme behaviors which might seriously harm hospitals' order and endanger medical workers' lives."

But she also pointed out that in order to eliminate such improper or even illegal practices the health authority should set up a special mechanism to deal with medical disputes.

Bai Zhiqin, health chief of Hainan province, suggested health authorities introduce a third-party medical dispute mediation mechanism and liability insurance.

"Patients would turn to the mediation organization facing medical disputes, and the insurance would help hospitals with quick compensation for patients after verification," he said.

Currently, hospitals on the mainland tend to cover up medical disputes with patients and reach a private settlement in secret for fear of harming their reputation, according to Bai.

The announcement also requires hospitals to set up a window to handle complaints from patients, and to put up instructions for filing complaints and the addresses and phone numbers of medical dispute mediation organizations.

It also requires patients and their families to solve their problems according to law and certain procedures if any dispute occurs between them and the hospital.

Sun Hongtao, a heart surgeon at the Beijing-based Fuwai Hospital, said the attacks on doctors also hurt the patients.

"Such environment might scare top students away from becoming medical students and physicians. Then patients would bear the brunt," he said.

Contact the writers at shanjuan@chinadaily.com.cn and wangqingyun@chinadaily.com.cn

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