Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hospital Sanctioned After Examining Farmer's Disease

The No. 1 Hospital Affiliated with Zhengzhou University was sanctioned by the Provincial Health Department of Henan Province after an ordeal in which national attention was drawn to the central province of 99 million people.

28 years old farm worker Zhang Haichao felt sick after worked in a small factory in Ural Hanan. Actually Zhang was not the first one in the factory to get sick. Several died and many had to quit job because they became too weak to work. Workers did not suspect it was job related because they went through health screening every year at the official 'Zhengzhou Occupational Disease Prevention and Treatment Center (CENTER)'. Every time the factory would tell them everything was normal.

All by a chance, Zhang read an article on the newspaper about black lung disease, and realised he was a victim. In the plant he worked processing stone materials, it was so dusty that he couldn't see his co-worker standing 4 feet away. Zhang again went to the official CENTER for a diagnose, but was turned away. The small factory told the CENTER the three years worker was never employed by the factory, so the CENTER refused to examine him. After months of wrestling with various level of authorities, the CENTER took an X-Ray of Zhang, but told him everything was okay. Local occupational CENTERs usually discourage workers from claiming occupational disease related benefit, because many are connected to the industries that caused these problems. Local officials also did not want to see diagnose of occupational disease for taxation considerations.

Zhang was desperate because he was so sick and he wouldn't be able to afford any treatment. He had seen co-workers painful death and he was so scared that the same would happen to him soon. He would rather die immediately than going through the last stage of black lung without at least some pain killers.

Desperate Zhang made a decision that would later place the country in shock and the Henan Health Department in embarrassment. Zhang asked the No. 1 Hospital Affiliated with Zhengzhou University to open his chest, and take a picture of his 'black' lung. The hospital did, and the story was picked up by numeral news media.

Before approaching through the extreme method, Zhang had obtained diagnose of black lung from several hospitals based on X-Rays. However, he still needs the CENTER to confirm the diagnose because the CENTER was the only official designated agency per the provincial Health Department. The CENTER refused to look into his files regardless.

The Health Ministry dispatched an expert group to Henan and announced Zhang was in stage III of black lung. With this diagnose, Zhang will be able to receive free treatment mandated by a national regulation. The head of the CENTER and the director of a city level Health Department were removed in a public outcry.

Humiliated Henan provincial government launched a counter attack. On August 10, 2009, the provincial Health Department Sanctioned the hospital for conducting occupational disease diagnose without proper authorization. The Henan provincial Health Department stated that only the officially designated CENTER could perform such examination and diagnose. The medical hospital was fined $1,000. The lead doctor was fired, and the president of the hospital was disciplined.

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