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April 10, 2014

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‘Guardian angels’ to protect doctors

BEIJING is taking a novel approach to protecting doctors from growing levels of violence from angry patients: volunteer “guardian angels.”

The campaign will recruit students, medical workers and other patients to act as intermediaries between doctors and patients, defusing disagreements and smoothing over tensions, according to Xinhua news agency.

Doctors in China have come under increasing threat as the country’s healthcare system struggles to cope with low doctor numbers, poor training and corruption inflating the price of care. This has seen a number of fatal attacks by patients on doctors in the past year.

“Patients will understand doctors better after talking with our volunteers,” Feng Guosheng, head of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Hospitals told Xinhua, adding services would include “hospital guidance” and “psychological intervention.”

The Beijing campaign will recruit more than 1,500 volunteers to serve a one-year term across 21 hospitals in the capital, Xinhua reported.

The government stepped up security at hospitals earlier this year, posting police at some centers and increasing surveillance after a rise in attacks.

On March 5, a doctor at Chaozhou Central Hospital in south China’s Guangdong Province was frogmarched around the hospital grounds by the angry relatives of a patient who died under his care.

And in February, a doctor from northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province was beaten to death by a patient.

In the latest attack on medical staff, a 45-year-old man unhappy with the results of his circumcision and its cost stabbed a doctor to death in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Xinhua reported yesterday.

Wang Fangli, who underwent the surgical procedure last week, stabbed Shan Erhui to death in the doctors’ lounge of a hospital in Fengxian on Tuesday.

A number of measures have recently been introduced to tackle problems in relations between patients and doctors.

In January, Zhejiang Provincial Higher People’s Court ruled that hospitals should bring the criminal law to bear on those who disrupt order in medical institutions.

The government of the northeastern city of Harbin announced a similar policy in February, and the local public health department promised more help for medical institutions and staff.

And the National Health and Family Planning Commission released a circular on February 20 banning doctors from taking “red envelopes” — gifts of money — from patients from May 1.

Han Meng, a volunteer at the capital’s Institute of Pediatrics, sees the “guardian angels” project as a way of rebuilding the image of doctors.

“I believe that it will help understanding,” he told Xinhua.



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