Death of sick teacher highlights medical rights

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/24 22:53:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

The dismissal and death of Liu Lingli, a cancer-stricken teacher in Bowen College, Lanzhou Jiaotong University in Northwest China's Gansu Province, has prompted an outcry in China. Liu, 32, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and asked for sick leave, but later she was fired by her college for absenteeism. She passed away earlier this month. Liu's story has set off discussions over the shortcomings of China's legal system and employees' rights protection. The Global Times has collected three pieces over this matter.

Stronger courts can guard people's rights

Liu died earlier this month from complications of cancer. Before that, she had to sell clothes on the street to pay her skyrocketing medical bills that couldn't be reimbursed since she was fired by her college.

It is unacceptable that the college dismissed Liu, an employee of three-year standing, while she was battling cancer.

More regrettably, the college halted paying Liu's health insurance after her dismissal, and this added to the financial burden of her family, which eventually led to her death.

Employers have to inform employees in written form 30 days in advance or pay them an additional month of salary to terminate labor relations if the latter fail to perform their duties or other assigned position because of illness. That meant it was illegal for Bowen College to fire Liu the same month when learning about her illness.

In addition, it is very cruel and indifferent of the college to stop paying Liu's medical insurance fees. This has pushed Liu into desperation.

To some extent, Liu's death has directly resulted from the college's refusal to pay her medical insurance.

The dismissal has also reflected the shortcomings of China's medical system.

The medical insurance is designed to alleviate the financial burdens of patients. But the insurance system is always tied up with the labor relations in reality, and the termination of the labor contract always means the end of medical insurance.

Liu could have resorted to the law and pressured Bowen College to continue to pay her health insurance, or paid the insurance by herself.

But this means a heavy cost of time and money that is unbearable for critically ill patient without a stable income.

Liu's story has shown the dilemma that may arise when China's medical system is operated. In this respect, commercial insurances or charities can step in and help those patients.

Although the court ruled the college's firing of Liu was illegal, it has no right to hear the request by Liu's families on resuming medical insurance.

It is necessary to grant courts or labor arbitration institutions the right to handle insurance-related cases to protect employees. The medical and legal systems should be improved to prevent Liu's tragedy from happening again.

Independent schools need serious reform

The dismissal of Liu has captured wide attention. People sympathize with Liu and condemn the university, and some even think it is time to remove the certification from such independent colleges as Bowen College that Liu worked with.

Independent institutions first appeared in the late 1990s and have developed rapidly under the backdrop of China's college expansion plan. Bowen College was founded in 2002.

Independent colleges refer to institutions providing undergraduate degree education that are established by universities jointly with social organizations or individuals. They are private institutions, not public ones, but they can enroll students using the reputation and influence of the universities they cooperate with. They can also invite faculty members from their parent universities to give teachings and instruction, so that the universities can justifiably get reasonable payment from independent colleges.

For nearly two decades, independent colleges have made their own contributions to higher-education development. But there are also problems. These colleges are established by their parent universities, but are run highly independently. In many cases the universities have no power to rein in the independent colleges while the latter doesn't care much about hurting the former's reputation, as shown in Liu's case. Both sides benefit when the independent colleges run well, but the parent universities are blamed more if bad things happen to the independent schools.

Liu's case has to some extent mirrored the problems of those independent colleges and reforms are needed. Under the background of China's supply-side reform on education, they are facing some transformations.

Perhaps a clearer division between public and private schools is a solution. Turing those independent colleges into either purely public schools or purely private ones, letting them be responsible for their own deeds can help resolve the puzzle.

There are a number of prestigious private universities abroad, which shows that the power and enthusiasm to run private schools should be encouraged. Of course, there must be one condition - letting more forces from private sector to join the trend, enhancing private schools' competitiveness.

But for those independent colleges and in particular in dealing with cooperation between public and private universities, it is time for some real reforms.

The Beijing News

Time for rethink of Legal protections

Before Liu's story was exposed online, the local court ruled Bowen College's termination of labor relations with Liu as invalid. But the college ignored the ruling and stopped paying Liu's medical insurance when it was urgently needed. During this period, Liu was abandoned by employees and driven away by chengguan when selling clothes on the street to pay her medical bills. The court's ruling couldn't be implemented. After she fell ill, she did not experience even a moment of warmth from the society until death.

Liu's death has angered the public. Many started to shift their attention from the young teacher's death to the background of her employer. In fact, Bowen College is separate from Lanzhou Jiaotong University, and differs a lot from the public educational institutions. Despite this, its contract with Liu is still protected by the labor law, and hence the dismissal of Liu was ruled invalid legally.

Liu's tragedy was not simply a result of the college's immorality or the failure in implementing the court's ruling. After Liu's death, under huge pressure by the public opinion, the college tried to take actions to remedy its reputation and cool down the public rage, pledging to negotiate with Liu's families to settle the issue.

But this is not enough. The real question is: how can an ordinary employee have his or her rights and interests protected when in trouble and who should shoulder more responsibility for this?

The law regulates that employers have to inform workers in writing 30 days in advance or pay them an additional month of salary to terminate labor relations if the latter fails to perform their duties. In Liu's case, the employer could legally fire Liu if she was still not competent at the job after receiving medical treatment.

It is a tough and complex task to amend the law to make it more favorable to employees. After all, it is inappropriate to order employers to offer endless insurance to employees. Even if the college paid the medical insurance for Liu, it would be of little help in curing her cancer.

It needs to be seriously discussed that what shares the employers, employees and the government should take when the employees need medical treatment for serious illness.

Southern Metropolis Daily

Posted in: Viewpoint

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