Zhang Haichao, the migrant worker known for receiving highly publicized open-chest surgery to find out the truth about his occupational illness, said yesterday it was "very unacceptable" that the hospital that performed his surgery will be punished by the Henan provincial health authority.
"If they did not perform the operation, then I would have had no option but to wait to die," Zhang told China Daily yesterday.
Zhang Haichao shows his assessment report for occupational disease. [Beijing Times]
Working in a fireproof material factory for three years with growing pain in his chest since 2007, the 28-year-old Henan native suspected he had developed occupational lung disease. The diagnosis was later confirmed by several major hospitals in Henan and Beijing.
But he could only get compensation if he had an assessment report for occupational disease issued by the government-designated clinic, where he had been misdiagnosed. He finally had to ask doctors in No 1 Hospital affiliated with Zhengzhou University to open his chest in July to prove he had the disease.
However, less than a month after the thoracotomy, an operation to gain access to the lungs, the Henan health bureau decided to punish the hospital. Bureau officials said it was not an authorized hospital for occupational disease diagnosis and cure, said a notification issued on Wednesday.
"The hospital's act has violated the country's Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Disease and should be criticized," it said.
From now on, any hospital unauthorized to perform occupational disease diagnosis should transfer suspected patients to authorized hospitals, it said.
The notification makes Zhang, probably the most famous pneumoconiosis patient in China, feel the situation was "very unfair".
"The No 1 hospital is way better than those government-designated occupational disease institutions that did nothing but tell lies and ignore professional ethics and humanity.
"The authorities should be more harsh on those negligent institutions," Zhang added.
The punishment also received harsh criticism from Internet users. A netizen left a message on Sina.com, calling it a "black humor" that the local health authority did not show their resolve to investigate the many more institutions that deserve punishment but blamed those that have no reason to be blamed.
A press office official for the hospital, who was reluctant to give his name, told China Daily he had heard about the punishment, but didn't want to comment further before getting more information from the authority.
For Zhang, who has now received eight months of free medication sponsored by a domestic pneumoconiosis treatment association, said his case is not a victory as another 52 of his colleagues suffer from the same disease, and there are even more across China.
"There is still a very long way to go and more for us to do," he said.
(China Daily August 14, 2009)