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October 17, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Medical mediator says system in good health

IF he was seeking a quiet life, medical dispute mediator Yuan Guiming is in the wrong job. For the 66-year-old has seen his workload increase many times over when the city introduced a fast-track arbitration system in August.

Yuan, one of around 100 medical dispute mediators in Shanghai, now receives at least three appointments with patients every working day - compared with one or two cases each month previously.

With medical disputes on the rise in the city where thousands of cases reported annually in recent years, the mediation system is designed to broker often bitter disputes between patients and medical institutions.

But Yuan, a mediator in Hongkou District hired by the Shanghai Justice Bureau, is not complaining about his heavy workload. "I love being busy," said the former doctor of cardiovascular diseases, who has an office on Beibaoxing Road. "Lawsuits usually take a long time. Patients and their families can easily become frustrated before the final judgment," said Yuan. "This approach is much quicker."

The revamp was introduced over concerns of the Shanghai Justice Bureau that disputes were getting out of hand and threatening public security.

Families had been known to hire medical dispute agents who would pose as relatives and disrupt the operation of a hospital - sometimes beating doctors or damaging equipment - in efforts to extract compensation.

Before the new mediation approach, patients could only seek judicial help if they did not accept a hospital's offer.

But the new service, which is free, includes patient-hospital consultation and also Health Bureau mediation.

Yuan became a mediator with Hongkou District United Mediation Committee last year. Then, his work was mainly guiding patients through juridical procedures.

In contrast, Yuan resolved last week a dispute in which nine relatives of a baby who died six hours after being born had caused disruption at the hospital involved and demanded compensation of 400,000 yuan (US$62,705).

The 38-year-old mother, surnamed Hu, gave birth in August. When her child died, she blamed the hospital.

Hu claimed one day earlier she had asked for a cesarean delivery but the hospital refused this, saying it didn't perform the operation at weekends.

The family believe the baby boy would have survived had he been delivered earlier.

However, the hospital insisted it adhered to regulations.

Yuan stepped in to break the deadlock and the two sides finally agreed on compensation of 180,000 yuan.

Li Heping, an official with Shanghai Justice Bureau, said that the new approach is popular as the mediators, volunteers paid a small salary, are seen as separate from officials.

In the past month, Yuan resolved seven medical disputes - a record high figure.


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