[Marxism] Two takes on Chinese health care
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 13 10:40:12 MST 2006
Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2005
Barefoot Doctors Make a Comeback In Rural China Trained as a Nurse, Ms. Li
Treats Datang Village; Delivering a Baby for $4
By PETER WONACOTT
DATANG VILLAGE, China -- Shortly after Li Chunyan married five years ago,
she sold her wedding gifts -- two water buffaloes -- and set up
a tiny medical clinic next door to a pigpen. Her only competition in this
hamlet with no running water was a witch doctor who treats
patients by chanting and ringing bells.
Villagers have opted for Ms. Li's conventional cures. As a graduate of a
three-year nursing-school program, the 28-year-old is by far the
best-trained healer in these parts.
On most days, she's busy treating colds and fevers. When called, she climbs
terraced hills of rice and cabbage to deliver babies in
villages that have no doctor. "Even the witch doctor comes to see me now,"
boasts Ms. Li, a petite woman who keeps her hair pulled back in a neat
knot. "He gets the sniffles."
In this remote corner of China's southwest Guizhou province, Ms. Li is
helping revive one of Mao Zedong's storied successes of the 1960s
and '70s: the "barefoot doctors," countryside medics who did a lot to
reduce infant mortality and eradicate contagious diseases. Local
authorities singled out candidates, who continued to work as farmers and
didn't wear shoes in the fields. In three to six months of
training, they learned to promote hygiene, treat basic ailments and deliver
NY Times, November 13, 2006
Boys Death at China Hospital Spurs Riot Over Care and Fees
By JOSEPH KAHN
BEIJING, Nov. 12 Some 2,000 people mobbed and ransacked a hospital in
southwestern China on Friday in a dispute over medical fees and shoddy
health care practices, a human rights group said Sunday.
At least 10 people were injured when the police broke up the demonstration
at Guangan City No. 2 Peoples Hospital, said the Information Center for
Human Rights and Democracy, based in Hong Kong. The area, in Sichuan
Province, was described as under tight police control on Sunday, with at
least five people detained on suspicion of instigating a riot.
The unrest erupted after a 3-year-old boy died in the hospital, where he
had been taken for emergency treatment after ingesting pesticides. Reports
conflicted about how much medical care he had received.
The human rights group said in a faxed statement that essential medical
care had been denied the boy until his grandfather, who was taking care of
him, could pay. The boy died after the grandfather left to raise money, the
An official report from the New China News Agency confirmed that a dispute
over medical fees had occurred at the hospital, but also said that doctors
there had treated the boy even though the grandfather had not been able to
pay the $82 bill.
Local residents who heard about the incident staged a demonstration at the
hospital that quickly turned violent. People smashed windows and destroyed
equipment at the six-story building. The human rights group said three
police vans had been overturned.
The New China News Agency did not report the demonstration or the police
crackdown in its dispatch, saying only that there had been a dispute over
fees. The state-run Sichuan Daily newspaper reported Sunday that local
authorities were looking into the matter and attached great importance to
investigating the causes of the boys death.
Medical costs are a major issue for tens of millions of people in Chinese
cities and hundreds of millions in the countryside who have no medical
insurance and no public safety net to cover the soaring cost of care.
The Communist Party-controlled government once offered rudimentary medical
care for nominal prices in the countryside. But hospitals were left largely
to fend for themselves in the expanding market economy of the 1990s.
Many ceased providing even emergency care for people who could not pay
hospital fees in cash before treatment.
Providing better access to health care and education and reducing the
countrys growing urban-rural wealth gap have become part of President Hu
Jintaos pledge to build a harmonious society.
But the government has provided relatively little money for hospital care
in poor areas. It has experimented with social insurance for people who do
not work for major companies, including most of the 800 million classified
as peasants, but has not introduced a national plan.
China has also been grappling with a wave of social unrest in recent years.
Riots involving thousands of people protesting confiscation of land,
environmental pollution, official corruption and other issues are no longer
The government canceled agricultural taxes and promised to spend more on
rural development in response. But rural residents still face weak or
nonexistent public services and have regular disputes with local officials
over repossession of their farmland for development.
The number of violent protests declined by 22 percent in the first nine
months of 2006, to 17,900, one measure the police use indicates.
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