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China Health & Science

Updated: National Outrage After Woman Is Made to Pay $700 for Hospital Appointment

The video of a woman outraged over being forced to pay 4500 yuan (nearly $700 US) has made the headlines in China, sparking a national debate over patients getting scammed before they can see a doctor.

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A video of a woman having to pay nearly $700 to see a doctor went viral on Weibo in the last week of January, prompting outrage on Chinese social media. The news story underlines the obstacles that Chinese citizens face in accessing decent healthcare. But a week after the video went viral, netizens wonder if the woman from the famous video might be a fraud herself. 

The video of a woman outraged over being forced to pay 4500 yuan (nearly $700 US) made the headlines in China, sparking a national debate over patients getting scammed before they can see a doctor. Online commenters called for a reform of China’s medical system. Now, a week after the video was posted all over different social media platforms, netizens wonder if the woman in the video is a fraud who actually works for an online medical platform.

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It is is a familiar sight at hospitals all over Beijing: rows of people waiting in the long queue for a ticket to see the doctor, some with stools or equipped with duvets. But some of those waiting in line are not ordinary people in need of a hospital appointment. They are ticket scalpers (票贩子), who force average Chinese citizens to pay insanely high prices for the most basic healthcare.

Scammed by hospital scalpers 

To prevent disorder and cutting in line, most patients at Chinese hospitals need to purchase a ticket to decide when they’ll be seen for nonemergency treatment. However, this system is frequently abused as scalpers buy tickets and sell them for much higher prices to actual patients.

The problem of scalpers was brought to national attention on January 19th, when the video of the screaming woman, dressed in a white coat, went viral on Sina Weibo. Filmed by a patient at Beijing’s Guang’anmen Hospital, the video shows the distressed woman accusing hospital guards of working with scalpers to push up ticket prices. The video became trending on Chinese social media platforms in the last week of January.

Many Chinese people, especially those from the countryside, face the problem of hospital scalpers when seeking medical attention. Under China’s current medical system, it is not easy for people from rural areas to gain access to medical facilities in the major cities, as they are not covered there and will have to pay for medical care themselves. The issue is related to China’s hukou (household registration) system; the government-subsidised rural medical insurance is often not valid in a different province, which means that villagers who fall seriously ill are not covered when they travel to first-tier cities for medical care.

Scalpers take advantage of the system and people’s eagerness to see a doctor by using local identification cards to book appointments, and then selling them to people without the proper documentation.

The woman in the video says that a ticket that originally cost ¥300 (± $46) was now pushed up to a whopping ¥4500 ($684) by scalpers operating in the hospital. She tearfully laments: “My God, ordinary people need to pay so much for a ticket, it’s so hard! If I died on my way home, there’s no hope in this society. This is Beijing, the capital!” The woman also tells onlookers: “Yesterday all the scalpers arranged us to queue, they put all their hires at the front, we real patients didn’t dare say a word! Where were the security guards?”

The woman allegedly traveled hundreds of miles to get an appointment for her paralyzed mother. She rented a basement room in Beijing while waiting for the doctor’s appointment, and carried her mother on her back when traveling.

A national problem

Since the video’s upload on Weibo, it has been reposted nearly 120,000 times and ‘liked’ over 187,000 times. Comments relating to the topic received over 10 million views, igniting a national debate over scalpers at hospitals.

The debate was especially noticeable on social media, where netizens reflected on the woman’s outcry and talked about their own experience with scalpers. One Weibo commenter writes: “Today I went to the hospital after the news about scalpers. For the most ordinary citizens at the lowest level, with no power or position, seeing a doctor is really not easy.” Another netizen says: “Our capital is the Holy Land in the hearts of our people. The ruthless action of those ticket scalpers brings shame to the capital. I believe that the people of Beijing will remove this malignant tumor and reshape their good image.”

Faced with masses of social media outcry, Guang’anmen Hospital denied that it condoned the reselling of tickets. It stated that a preliminary investigation found no evidence of security guards colluding with scalpers to resell tickets. Beijing police, however, confirmed on January 28 that 12 people have been arrested in relation to this case.

Marketing for online medical company

On February 2, the woman in the video became trending again, but this time for a different reason. Chinese media report that the woman now receives lifelong free medical care for her mother, offered by medical company Yihu365 . Some people suspect that she is a staff member of this company, that offers medical care at home that can be ordered through an app. The company also has a service for making hospital appointments. Under the hashtag of ‘is she a fraud?’ (#挂号女是托#), netizens now discuss the possibility of the video being set up as a marketing campaign for Yihu365.

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“She is obviously not a fraud,” one Weibo user says: “The app just seized the opportunity for their own promotion.”

“I don’t believe this was staged,” one other netizen also comments: “It was probably just a good business opportunity for this company. But even if it was faked, what does it really matter? The hospital scalpers are real. They are everywhere.”

Thus far no official media have backed up the online allegations.

Staged or not, the general lack of regulation on hospital scalpers means they will continue to be a real obstacle to patients’ access to medical treatment. Having easy access to decent healthcare is a right of citizens throughout the world, but for ordinary people in Beijing, simply stepping their foot in the doctor’s office is a painstakingly expensive ordeal.

Some netizens point out to the importance of ordinary citizens standing up injustices in China’s health care: “If there are more people willing to speak out against such injustice in society, there will be less unfairness. If there are more people enacting justice, good can trump evil!”

By Anna Xue & updated by Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

Shanghai ‘Dead Man’ Taken Away to Morgue, Found to Be Alive

An incident in which a man taken to a morgue turned out to be alive doesn’t really help to restore residents’ trust in Shanghai.

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An incident in which a Shanghai man, who was thought to be dead, was taken to a funeral home before he was found to be alive has become a big topic on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on the afternoon of May 1st at the Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home (上海新长征福利院) in the city’s Putuo District.

A video of the incident went viral on Chinese social media in which a body bag can be seen put into a vehicle by three people, two members of staff from the nursing home and one funeral home worker. Shortly after, the body bag is taken out again and put back on a trolley. One of the nurses zips open the bag, pulls a cover from the man’s face, and apparently finds him to be alive.

“He’s alive,” one of the workers says in shock: “He’s alive, I saw it, he’s alive. Don’t cover him any more.”

The man is then transferred back into the nursing home, still inside the body bag.

The video that is making its rounds on social media was filmed from two different angles, the person filming can be heard calling the incident “a disgrace for human life” and “irresponsible.”

On May 2nd, the Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily posted about the incident on Weibo, saying the city district is currently investigating the case. The man was hospitalized and his vital signs are stable.

Meanwhile, multiple people are held accountable for the incident. The head of the nursing home has been dismissed and will be further investigated, along with four district officials. The license of the doctor involved will also be revoked.

The Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home has also apologized for the incident (#上海一福利院就未死亡老人被拉走道歉#).

On social media, many people are angry about the incident, wondering why the old man was transported to the funeral home in the first place, and why the members of staff seemed to be indifferent after finding out he was still alive.

In the video, the member of staff standing next to the man can be seen covering the patient’s face again after finding out he is still alive, leaving the body bag zipped up. Many also see this as a cold and incomprehensible way to respond.

After weeks of online anger about the chaotic and sometimes inhumane way in which Shanghai authorities have been handling the Covid outbreak in the city, this incident seems to further lower the public’s trust in how patients and vulnerable residents are being treated.

“Shanghai is such a terrifying place!”, some on Weibo write.

“Just think about it,” one person responded: “This incident took place in one of China’s most prosperous cities and happened to be filmed. How much is happening in other cities that is not caught on camera? Today, it’s this man, in the future, it’s us.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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