The yinao (医闹, ‘medical disturbance’) phenomenon has become a growing problem in China’s medical sector over the past several years. Yinao is the organized disturbance and violence in hospitals against medical workers, mostly meant to get compensation for medical malpractices. It is often done by criminal groups that are hired by patients or their family when they are dissatisfied with the provided medical care.
The disturbance includes protests and violent attacks on staff. Some even involve the murder on health professionals.
Chinese media have covered roughly thirty medical related disputes from October 2013 to June 2015. These were only the terribly violent disputes (including fatal stabbings) that had a large societal impact; the thousands of small disputes happening in hospitals across China every day were not taken in account.
“The Ministry of Public Security has advised hospitals with 2000 beds to have at least 100 security guards.”
In October of 2013, the Ministry of Public Security has advised hospitals with over 2000 beds to have at least 100 security guards. The growing numbers of security staff, however, have not helped to combat hospital violence.
In November 2013, hundreds of medical workers protested at the No. 1 People’s Hospital in Wenling, after a dissatisfied patient overpowered security guards and stabbed three doctors, leading to the death of one of them.
The new law, that will be implemented on November 11th of this year, is to punish those who threaten and assault medical staff, damage hospital facilities or equipment, or in any way hinder the hospital staff and doctors from doing their work.
“Medical workers are constantly bullied, humiliated or physically hurt by ignorant people.”
On Sina Weibo, the topic “medical disturbance crimination” (#医闹入罪#) was posted immediately after the news was released. Over a million users participated in a discussion about the new law.
Among all the users commenting, there were are also many medical professionals and students. “Us as poor medical students can finally relax a little bit. Medical violence should have been incriminated years ago!” says user Sunshine Without Tears: “There have been so many hospital disputes, and medical workers are constantly bullied, humiliated or physically hurt by ignorant people. We need a law to combat hospital disputes so that the relationship between doctors and patients will improve.”
Doctor CSY summarizes the major factors contributing to the increase of violence in China’s health care: a rising consciousness of patient rights, deepening misunderstandings between patients and doctors, and provocative media reporting. He then adds: “I’ve witnessed a lot of disputes in the hospital over the past few years. All doctors want their patients to get better and healthy. We work so hard with not much income, and yet have to worry about our own safety. If any medical worker neglects his duty, he should be punished by the law instead of being hit by the patient’s family.”
“Patients sometimes spend their entire life savings when suffering from serious illnesses. When treatment fails, despairing patients and their families are quick to blame doctors.”
The market-oriented reforms of the Chinese health sector is also a major cause of the yinao phenomenon. With China’s economic liberalization, the state is no longer responsible for providing health care. Because public hospitals have started chasing profits to survive, people have to take more responsibility for their own care.
Patients sometimes spend their entire life savings when suffering from serious illnesses. When treatment fails, despairing patients and their families are quick to blame doctors and the hospital.
Most patients and their families are unwilling to solve medical problems through legal channels; not only is the process time-consuming, it also might end with no financial compensation. They believe a quicker way to get some money back is to cause trouble at the hospital.
Weibo user Huohuo is worried about the feasibility of the new law: “I don’t think ordinary people will go to court to deal with medical issues. In China, there is a long tradition of the law failing us, while the violators win. I just hope that China will be a developed country soon so that all Chinese people can enjoy free healthcare. It might be the best solution to decrease hospital disputes.”
“Doctors are the perfect target of revenge.”
There are also Weibo users who understand negative sentiments towards medical staff. Chinese doctors and other medical professionals are generally underpaid. The low income causes some of them to make extra money in “grey areas” such as drug kickbacks, over-prescription, and bribery. For many patients, this has ruined the image of doctors, and they find it hard to trust them. This partly explains why, when medical misfortune happens, doctors often are the perfect targets of revenge.
User East South West North comments: “Medical disputes happen for a reason. The truth is, that some doctors require patients to do unnecessary inspections so they can make profits. Patients have even died from counterfeit drugs prescribed by doctors.”
“I’m afraid no one wants to pursue a career in medicine if this vicious cycle keeps on growing.”
China’s violence against doctors has been cited as an important reason for a decrease in the popularity of healthcare career. User J_tomorrow points out that the government should heighten the punishment of ‘medical disturbance’ to ensure the safety of medical workers at hospitals: “Doctor is a high-risk and low-paid occupation in China. I’m afraid no one wants to pursue a career in medicine if this vicious cycle keeps on growing.”
Weibo user called Bottle of Chili admits that she has lost her passion of being a medical worker: “I used to be full of passion for my work, and I treated my patients with kindness. But after being misunderstood and humiliated by patients and their families years after years, I’m now doing my job like a robot. The whole society expects us to show selfless devotion, but we are humans after all!”
‘Medical disturbance crimination’ is the first step in improving the doctor-patient relationship. Many more measurements need to be taken in order to cope with this social problem. User Liyun expresses his support of the legal protection of medical worker. At the same time, he says: “We need to understand the underlying reasons of medical disturbance – the distrust between doctors and patients. Hospitals should not hide or cover up medical negligence. And patients should give medical workers the respect they deserve.”
Written by Yiying Fan
Edited by Manya Koetse