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Two-Thirds of Chinese Don't Trust Doctors, Amid Rising Hospital Violence

Two-Thirds of Chinese Don't Trust Doctors, Amid Rising Hospital Violence

Photograph by Imaginechina via AP Photo

Following a rash of violent incidents directed at hospital staff, a new survey digs into the lack of trust Chinese patients feel toward doctors.

Carried out by the polling center at the publication China Youth Daily, the survey canvassed 252,283 people across the country. It’s big take-away: Fully two-thirds, or 66.8 percent of people, don’t trust “doctors’ professional diagnosis and treatment.”

On Oct. 25 a patient upset about a nose operation stabbed a doctor to death and injured two others in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. That same day, Chinese media reported that 18 hospitals in Shanghai announced they were beefing up security, with the aim of having one guard per 20 hospital beds. The average number of assaults per year on doctors went up from 20.6 per hospital in 2008 to 27.3 last year, according to a separate survey by the China Hospital Association, reported the China Daily on Nov. 12.

What explains the patient-doctor conflict? The No. 1 reason for disputes is the lack of “public welfare services,” and “public hospitals,” says the China Youth Daily survey. A close second is the deleterious effect of negative media reports, with 27.4 percent saying bad news contributed to the public’s anger.

The survey respondents also said disputes stemmed from the lack of trust between doctors and patients (9.2 percent), the uneven distribution of medical resources (7.3 percent), doctors’ heavy workload (7 percent), and patients expecting too much from medical care (6.6 percent).

What’s to be done? First, to rebuild patients’ trust in doctors, China should once again establish a “public welfare” medical system, said the largest number of people, or 35.6 percent of respondents. The second most-cited fix for frayed faith: About one-fifth said doctors need to be more “compassionate” and “patient” when dealing with those seeking treatment.

Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek's Asia News Editor and China bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @dtiffroberts.

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