Unhealthy practice

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, May 13, 2010
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For a patient who is to soon go under the knife, to hand over a red envelope (read as bribe) or not to the doctor is a perplexing question.

Many hand over the money fearing the doctors will slacken in their efforts at the operating table.

Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health and several other central government departments held a meeting to ban such unethical behavior. Doctors who routinely receive generous kickbacks from sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies too would soon be feeling the heat, it was decided.

The effort was long overdue and certainly welcome.

Supervision of doctors is essential to curb such unhealthy practices, but the overhaul will flounder if it stops at just reiterating the rules - that doctors are barred from receiving bribes from patients or salespersons.

The reason why patients offer envelopes to doctors is because the doctors have grown accustomed to receiving a little "extra" for operations.

The custom puts the patients and their relatives in a spot. They worry that doctors will not do their jobs if the payment is not made upfront. They fear operations may turn out to be "unsuccessful" or one that may even lead to death.

If the rules are tightened to imply that doctors stand to lose their jobs if they are found to be seeking red envelopes from patients, and if those rules are enforced strictly, it is quite likely such a tendency would be reversed.

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