Front Page of the Day
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 12:38 PM
Dongguan Times, April 27, 2010
In January, a couple checked into the Dongguan Maternal & Child Healthcare Hospital (东莞市妇幼保健院) for a C-section. When the mother was discharged half a month later, the hospital held onto the infant because the parents had paid just 1,200 RMB of their total medical bill, which amounted to nearly 40,000 RMB.
Today's Dongguan Times reported the story. The front-page image shows the new father, Liu Bohu, checking his bill on one of the hospital's information kiosks.
Hospital Seizes Infant to Force Fee PaymentParents: The family really has no money; they hope to pay in installments
Maternity Hospital: The child's parents should offer something to show their sincerity
Zhao Hongjie / DT
Liu Bohu's mood was like yesterday's weather, relentlessly gloomy.
Yesterday Liu's son was one hundred days old, but because of 39,229.75 RMB in outstanding fees, his son had become a "hostage" at the city's Maternal & Child Healthcare Hospital.
Yang Yong, head of pediatrics at the hospital, told this reporter yesterday afternoon that Liu had only paid 1,200 RMB prior to the hospital stay but had made not a cent in additional payments, so he showed no good faith whatsoever.
The anxiety of childbirth
Liu Bohu, 32 years old this year, is a resident of the village of Xiniupo in the town of Dalang. He previously worked as a guard in Chang'an, where he made 900 RMB a month.
At the beginning of 2007, he and his wife began to have trouble and they later separated.
In October 2008, he moved in with Yi Haijin, a woman from Zhanjiang who was selling clothes in Dalingshan.
In May 2009, Yi became pregnant.
On January 19 of this year, when Yi was eight months pregnant, she was hospitalized at the city's Maternal & Child Healthcare Hospital. Because her amniotic fluid was low, she needed an immediate c-section.
"They only paid a deposit of 1,200 RMB, which is far less than the surgery fee." A member of the medical staff at the hospital said that the mother's condition was serious, "so out of a humanitarian spirit, the hospital performed a c-section that preserved the life of mother and child."
Half a month later, Yi Haijin was discharged, but her son remained in the hospital.
"They paid just 1,200 RMB since entering the hospital and not one cent more. So we had to keep the child at the hospital," said a staff member.
Hospital has no other choice
It ought to have been a joyous occasion of their son's hundredth day, but ever since he was born the child had never been home.
At 1:30 yesterday afternoon, Liu Bohu carried Yi Haijin on the back of his bike as he rode through the rain to toward Dalingshan. Two and a half hours later they arrived at the hospital.
A fee inquiry showed that they owed a total of 39,299.75 RMB in medical fees.
"We planned on paying in installments, but the hospital was unwilling," Liu said. In frustration, he said that after the child was born, he lost his job, and Yi had come down with diabetes and could not work either. "Our lives are now totally supported by her mother selling stir-fry."
"We had no alternative," Yang Yong said. Yesterday afternoon he told this reporter that if Liu and Yi had shown good faith by paying 50 or 100 RMB at a time, then they would have let them take the child home.
Yang said, "If their family really doesn't have any money, then staying at the hospital is better going home."
Saving lives and nursing the wounded is a hospital's vocation, "Save first, collect fees later" is the principle that the health care system ought to follow.
But the data shows that across the city, public hospitals average hundreds of thousands of RMB in uncollected fees. Experts say that this phenomenon demonstrates insufficiencies in the social security system. The government ought to coordinate various agencies to resolve this social issue.
Nearly 40,000 RMB in medical fees is an astronomical sum to Liu Bohu.
Lu Jun of Guangdong Guanxin Law Offices said that in this case, the hospital's action was clearly inappropriate: "Hospitals can ask guardians to provide an address and photocopies of IDs. If they don't pay their medical bills, then they can be sued." Lu said that by keeping a child as a bargaining chip, the hospital shows its lack of options. One can sympathize, but its actions actually violate the law.
However, Lu admitted that behind the case of a newborn being unable to go home because of unpaid bills reflect current imperfections in compensation mechanisms. "In these circumstances, the financial pressure upon a health care institution because of uncollected fees is bound to affect the development of health services and the sustainability of the doctor-patient relationship."
Update (2010.04.28): The Chinese Law Prof Blog has an interesting discussion of how debt hostages are treated in Chinese law:
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