New agreements to stamp out bribes to doctors

Updated: 2012-08-09 20:37

By Wang Qingyun (

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Doctors and patients could be made to sign agreements before treatment promising not to give or receive hongbao - red envelopes stuffed with cash.

The measure is among several in a draft regulation from the Health Ministry and is part of ongoing efforts to prevent corruption in hospitals, China National Radio reported Wednesday.

If approved, doctors and patients will be required to sign an agreement in which the doctor vows he or she will not ask for money, and the patient vows he or she will not attempt to hand over the secret bonus.

The document will be included in the medical records, according to the draft, which is open to public consultation until Aug 16.

The hongbao stipulation has so far received mixed reaction.

Qiang Lei, a deputy to the Beijing Municipality People's Congress, said the stipulation is more symbolic than realistic, as giving and accepting red envelopes has always been secretive.

"Signing an agreement on the table is just formality," he said.

The Practicing Physicians Law, issued in 1999, forbids doctors from asking for or illegally accepting money from patients. On July 18, the Ministry of Health released revised regulations on medical workers' behavior, which again emphasized the ban.

According to Qiang, medics who accept red envelopes violate Criminal Law, because it is considered a bribe. Giving a red envelope to a doctor is also outlawed for the same reason.

However, it is still common in China for people to give red envelopes to surgeons before operations.

Deng Haihua, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said signing such an agreement is necessary. "The red-envelope issue is very complicated. The ministry has been working to curb it for a long time," he said. "Media say that signing the agreement doesn't practically work, but before we can come up with a solution by overhauling the medical service system, we need to carry out comprehensive efforts to rectify the situation, because it's impossible to have the system straightened out immediately."

Zhou Zijun, a professor at the School of Public Health, Peking University, said: "It's against the law to gain such profits, but the problem is: How much should a doctor get paid?

"If the doctors are paid at a very low level, they will find other ways to solve this problem."

In China, the government sets the price for services provided by public hospitals. However, the prices have been criticized for being too low for medical workers.

In the latest efforts to reform public hospitals, Beijing government has significantly increased the consultation fees of doctors in the Friendship Hospital, one of its public hospitals, so that doctors can earn more from offering consultations.