Burns specialist tells of pressure, violence faced by medical staff

By Global Times - Agencie Source:Global Times-Agencies Published: 2015-12-4 5:03:01

Security guards protect a doctor during a riot drill at the Third Hospital of Ji'nan in Shandong Province on May 26. Violence against hospital staff is not uncommon in China. Photo: CFP

Weibo celebrity A Bao, a critic of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and surgeon specializing in burns, has recently shown the public his own way of dealing with medical disputes, after his little finger was bitten by a patient's relative.

The incident occurred a month after he told Behind the Headlines, a talk show on Phoenix TV, that if a patient's relative got rough with him he would "fight if I can win, run if I can't."

A noted surgeon in Beijing's Jishuitan Hospital, the country's leading burns hospital, 39-year-old Ning Fanggang, nicknamed "Burns Superman A Bao" on Sina Weibo, has been thrust into the spotlight for his outspoken remarks and shocking anecdotes of life on the medical frontline.

On the evening of November 15, while he was on duty in the emergency room, he had a physical conflict with a couple who brought their scalded child in for treatment.

The dispute occurred after the couple's demand that their child's dressing be changed was rejected by the emergency crew. According to hospital rules, they had to go to the outpatient clinic for the procedure.

The man verbally abused staff before loudly calling him a pig and a dog, Ning said in a clarification letter titled "I'm good, please don't worry" published on his Weibo six days after the event.

"He kept chasing and harassing me when I left the emergency room for the ward zone. I didn't talk or fight back until he attempted to prevent me from walking into a ward room," he wrote. During the conflict, the man bit his little finger, Ning claimed.

However, a Weibo user named zhouhaoyue who claimed to be the angry father said Ning was telling lies. In a long post, he claimed they had been irritated by Ning's "bad attitude" and said it was Ning who fought first. Attaching a picture of a swollen eye, a bleeding nose and a swollen finger, the man claimed Ning punched him and bit his finger first.

The man asked the hospital to release the surveillance camera footage to prove his innocence.

Ning reposted zhouhaoyue's post, saying he welcomes legal rulings to solve the dispute. Ning declined requests for an interview from the Global Times.

Zhouhaoyue hasn't responded to interview requests as of press time.

Ning Fanggang Photo: weibo.com/abaoshixiong

No regrets

Posting pictures of his bandaged little finger, Ning has continually updated his Weibo, which now has 410,000 followers.

"On the bumpy road in the practice of medicine, I have complaints, but no regrets," he said on a Weibo post.

It was not the first time Ning has come into conflict with patients' relatives or friends. On the Phoenix TV talk show, he mentioned an incident that occurred while he was treating a drunk man with a minor scald.

The man was continually yelling because of the pain. His friends blamed this on Ning and started to verbally abuse him. When a group of people surrounded him, he was unable to contain his temper, and a scuffle ensued. His face was scratched before the hospital's security guard separated them.

Eventually, they were taken to a police station where the rowdy men sobered up and apologized to him, he said.

Ning said most patients and their relatives were polite and that doctors must be calm in the face of any situation.

But sometimes certain individuals became aggressive, which made him lose his temper, he explained.

On haodf.com, a website on which people can provide feedback on medical services, there are four posts on Ning's homepage, all expressing their gratitude to him for his kindness and medical skill.

Mutual mistrust

Such disputes are common in China, and some cases are extreme. Before compensation is paid or justice sought, patients' relatives usually stage protests in the hospital, either by blocking the hospital's exits or confining the medical staff. Some even stage their protests with weapons. Reports of doctors being seriously injured or even stabbed to death are not rare.

The mistrust between patients and doctors, as well as the absence of a proper mechanism to deal with disputes, is seen as a major factor behind the problem.

Ning said that some individuals are "unruly" and use unlawful tactics to coerce hospitals into paying higher compensation. He believed that the government's tolerance for these demonstrations is largely to blame. The local government's main concern is maintaining stability, and they usually take the patients' side, he told media.

This view has been controversial. "The patients are at a disadvantage. When they spend so much money at a hospital but fail to get the service they deserve, they will easily get emotional," a netizen from Chengdu said on ifeng.com. "If the hospital has done its duty, who would do something out of line?"

Despite the criticisms, Ning has never shied away from expressing his views, a rare example of a doctor who dares to publicly defend medical workers.

With his round face and beer belly, Ning gives the impression of being very optimistic. But he revealed in a post in early January that he has cried on several occasions, including when a seriously burnt firefighter died after spending 31 days in treatment. 

In several of his posts, he expressed regret for not spending enough time with his son, as he often spent several days in a row at the hospital.

TCM sceptic

A PhD of the Peking University Health Science Center, Ning has received a great deal of support from both medical colleagues and netizens. As early as May 2013, he revealed on Weibo that "oral liquid collagen products are all fake," triggering a wave of civil campaigns against fraudulent advertisements for collagen.

But his outspoken remarks have sometimes brought him problems. In late May 2013, he revealed on Weibo that he had been assaulted by two women. According to Beijing News, the women were dog lovers and had become angry after seeing Ning using the derogatory terms "dog fans" and "dog fetish" on his Weibo.

And in September last year, in a bid to debunk traditional Chinese medicine, he posed a challenge on Weibo to TCM practitioners from top level TCM hospitals.

He said that he would organize an experiment and recruit a group of women, some of whom were pregnant. If any officially accredited TCM doctor could correctly judge the women's pregnancy status 80 percent of the time just by feeling their pulse, they would win 100,000 yuan ($15,600).

The challenge was called off when no qualified TCM doctors responded.

Global Times - Agencies
Newspaper headline: Feeling the heat

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