[Marxism] Two takes on Chinese health care

Louis Proyect 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

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
Boy’s Death at China Hospital Spurs Riot Over Care and Fees

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 Guang’an City No. 2 People’s 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 
group said.

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 boy’s 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 
country’s growing urban-rural wealth gap have become part of President Hu 
Jintao’s 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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