Respiratory workforce is in a state of constant crisis, doctors warnBMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n497 (Published 18 February 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n497
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There have been over 10 cases of violent injuries to doctors since the Covid-19 epidemic began. The events involving doctor-patient conflict have invoked millions of people sharing in Chinese social media. It is not a new topic. A 2018 report from the Chinese Medical Doctor Association found that 66% of doctors in China reported conflicts with patients, with more than 30% experiencing violence. In the 295 medical injuries reported in the past decade, 362 medical staff were injured, 99 were attacked by patients with weapons, and 24 doctors lost their lives .
Many reports of attacks on medical staff have emerged over the past decade. In addition to the uneven distribution of medical resources for the large Chinese population and the public’s unrealistic expectations regarding treatment, negative media coverage and the legal system are primary factors. In the few reports of incidents resulting from medical disputes, administrative punishment, such as 10 to 15 days of detention or limited fines, is the most common punishment. The legal system in China tends to protect patients, who are considered a vulnerable group.
The killing of one doctor might lead to 10 doctors changing their profession, 100 medical students reconsidering their career options, 1,000 families stopping their children from becoming doctors, and 10,000 patients losing opportunities to receive treatment. Over two-thirds of doctors suffer from burnout, a condition resulting from work pressure, lack of enthusiasm, and low job satisfaction. The burnout itself can even result in sudden death from physician suicide or substance abuse. From 2005 to 2015, 4.7 million trained medical students graduated, but the number of doctors increased by only 750,000. Over 70% of parents who are doctors themselves would choose careers for their children other than doctor . Doctor burnout reminds us that the structural defects and some deep problems in China's medical system have not been effectively solved.
Chinese health authority policymakers recently approved the national health care and promotion law, which went into effect on June 1, 2020 . The law makes it illegal for any individual or organization to demean, threaten, or endanger the personal safety of medical staff, stipulating that such actions will be considered violations of public security and will be punished as such, and asserting that such incidents would not be handled as simple medical disputes but rather as severe criminal offenses. The hard times and suffering of Chinese doctors will change in the near future. What deserves expectation is for the world to pay more attention to the work of Chinese doctors and patient care.
1. Li J, Wan S, Zhao J. Media reported 295 medical injuries in the past decades. The paper. Dec 28, 2019. https://www.thepaper.cn/ newsDetail_forward_5368741
2. Wang X. White paper on the practice status of Chinese physicians. China Daily. Jan 12, 2018.https://cn.chinadaily.com.cn/2018-01/12/content_35493502.htm
3. Hua X. China adopts new law to promote basic medical and health care. Dec 28, 2019. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/28/c_138663437.htm
Competing interests: No competing interests