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Dongda Proctology Hospital accused of fraud

Xinhua Daily Telegraph, September 6, 2010

"As I was handing my registration to the doctor, and before I'd even dropped my trousers to let him see the afflicted area, I was told to have an enema." "It was only when the anesthetic was being injected into my buttocks that I noticed that the presiding surgeon was not the 'famous doctor' from the advertisement." "The moment the cutting started was when I realized that the doctor's so-called 'painless' procedure was actually a 'scream'."

So begins Xinhua's report on one of Beijing's most famous medical institutions, the Dongda Hospital for Proctology and Intestine Disease (北京东大肛肠医院).

The hospital is so well known because of its extensive advertising campaign. Posters and ads blanket public transportation and public restrooms, and Dongda flyers are ubiquitous. And among English speakers, the hospital used to be the butt of jokes under its former name: Dongda Hospital for Anus and Intestine Diseases.

Today's Xinhua Daily Telegraph reports that Dongda is alleged to have made a number of different false claims in its advertising:

· Fake Identity: The hospital's website claims, "This institution is the only hospital under the administration of the Chaoyang District Health Department specializing in intestinal diseases....a survey has shown that 93% of intestinal disease patients believe that Dongda is Beijing's best intestinal hospital." However, Yang Hongyan, director medical administration for Chaoyang, told Xinhua, "That institution has never been one of our specialty hospitals. It is a private, for-profit hospital."

· Fake Specialists: Reporters checked the CV of the head of proctology, who claims to have worked in several major Beijing hospitals. None of them have any record of him working there.

· Fake Honors: Dongda claims that a consumer feedback service represents its membership in a "National Medical Consumer Assurance Alliance." The service is actually offered free to all hospitals by the China Foundation of Consumer Protection.

· Fake Treatments: The hospital advertises its "American technology" and "painless, small incisions," but its treatments are no different than those at other hospitals.

Then there's this peek behind the curtain:

One senior specialist who was formerly employed at a private proctology hospital told reporters that complaints from patients about Dongda had been on the rise for several years. Investors had been starting additional such hospitals across the country.

"Every doctor who is hired in the hospital is assigned an assistant who acts as a 'little spy' for the boss. What drug should the doctor prescribe? How much should the surgery cost? Can a minor illness be described as a major one, and can a major illness be described as cancer to pressure patients into opting for surgery? The boss knows all." The specialist described his own experience: "Because I didn't know how to play those tricks, some younger doctors who knew how to talk did my appointments for me. All I had to do was put my name on them, and then I'd wait in the VIP room all day drinking tea, reading the paper, and watching TV."

"Whenever the hospital ran into trouble, I immediately became the chief of the rescue team," the specialist recalled. "On many occasions, a patient who had already been given anesthetic would discover that the lead surgeon was not the 'famous doctor' from the ad, and they'd make a fuss and want to file a report. Then I'd immediately come in to save the day and solve things by doing the surgery."

The specialist said that the consultation rooms were all ranked according to revenue, and the higher their revenue, the more their doctors received in bonuses. "Every move a doctor made had a monetary value attached to it. I regretted going there three days after I arrived, and I eventually walked out."

When this reporter described these "inside stories" to hospital director Zhao Lingyu, he sighed. "Please understand our predicament. Private hospitals are always in a precarious situation."

"Advertising is a huge sum. The hospital building is rented at a cost of 600,000 RMB a month. More than ten apartments to use as living quarters for staff is another 600,000. And then private hospitals have to pay a corporate tax of 25%. We have to buy our own medical equipment, hire our own doctors, and finance our own payroll..." Zhao said.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Shenzhen's status as a special economic zone. Two blue-headlines pieces on the left-hand side of the page comment on the achievements of the past three decades. The front page image contrasts today's Lo Wu Bridge, which connects Shenzhen to Hong Kong, with a photo from the 1960s.

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