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Cancer patient's grievances draw attention

03-01-2012 14:35 BJT

SHANGHAI, March 1 (Xinhua) -- A Shanghai teacher's online post that voiced the grievances of his father, a retiree with lung cancer, has gained widespread attention from the Chinese public, as well as a top Shanghai government official.

The post, written by high school teacher Qin Ling, was addressed to the city's top official Yu Zhengsheng.

Qin described himself as a "stressed-out" son and a "devoted Communist Party of China (CPC) member," adding that his 59-year-old father is a former state company employee who has been laid off for 14 years.

"In the past two months, we have suffered shock, grief and despair. But there is little we can do. My father's days are numbered," Qin wrote.

Qin's father was diagnosed with lung cancer in December, but was denied hospitalization by at least two public hospitals.

"I was helpless and bewildered when I was told by one hospital after another that they could not take him in," Qin said.

When he accompanied his father to the emergency room in an ambulance, Qin said a doctor reminded him he had to "find connections."

"He said no further treatment would be provided otherwise," Qin wrote.

True to the doctor's words, Qin's father was forced out of the hospital after receiving emergency treatment and was later denied a bed at another hospital.

"Then, a general practitioner at our community clinic told me I had to lie about my father's disease, because no hospital wants to take in a cancer patient," Qin wrote.

During their many visits to the outpatient departments of Shanghai's public hospitals, Qin said doctors frequently prescribed costly medicine for his father, several of which were alleged "cure-alls" imported from India and available only at drugstores recommended by the doctors.

China's public hospitals have their own pharmacies, and doctors are required to prescribe only medicines that are available at those pharmacies. Doctors are also required to consult with patients first before prescribing any expensive medication that is not covered by the patients' medical insurance.

"I tried desperately to find 'connections,' telling one lie after another, and even bribed our 'connections' and doctors with cash rewards and gifts. As a CPC member, I know this is not right, but as a son, I have to do this for my father," Qin wrote.

At the end of his post, Qin called for a safe and stable medical environment and affordable medication for all cancer patients.

"At the very least, we should avoid seeing terminal cancer patients die in loneliness and despair, with no medicine or a hospital bed," he wrote.

Qin's post went live on Feb. 27, spreading quickly on Chinese social networks in the two days since.

On Wednesday night, Yu Zhengsheng, secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the CPC, made a formal response using the city's official account on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site.

Yu said he understood Qin's plight, which was exacerbated by defects in the medical system.

"We will do our best to help you and we appreciate your proposals...I cannot guarantee a prompt solution, but we all feel your pain. Our common understanding, including that of the medical workers, will push us forward," Yu wrote.

Yu's statement was reposted nearly 10,000 times within two hours Wednesday night.

While many netizens applauded the official's efficiency and frankness, they also voiced grievances similar to Qin's and called for better medical services, including fairer, more transparent prices and adequate care for terminal cancer patients.

Qin said Yu's response caught him by surprise.

"It was a spur-of-the-moment idea to post that letter online," Qin told the local Jiefang Daily newspaper. "But Yu called me in person at 5 p.m. and promised he would help arrange for my father's medication."

Later Wednesday night, Qin said local health officials visited his father and at least one hospital offered long-term inpatient treatment.

Editor:Zhang Jianfeng |Source: Xinhua

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