Hubei doctor’s sudden death not recognized as work injury triggers controversy

By Wan Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/27 1:38:36

Medical workers wear protective suits and equipment before entering the isolation ward at Wuhan No.1 Hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

The sudden death of a Hubei doctor after seeing more than 3,000 patients within a month amid the virus outbreak was not recognized as a work-related injury, which has led to debate over the criteria for work injuries or death of doctors who work on the frontline against the epidemic.

Liu Zhixiong, a physician at a hospital in Xiantao city, Hubei Province, died of acute myocardial infarction at home on February 13 after working for more than a month without a break since the COVID-19 outbreak started.

As a leader of the hospital’s expert group on COVID-19 treatment, Liu saw more than 3,100 patients, including 670 with fever symptoms, within one month before his passing. That exceeded the total number of visits to his three colleagues combined, reported the Beijing News, adding that he used to answer counseling calls from his patients at 10 o’clock at night.

Liu’s death was not reported as a work-related injury because he was not infected with the coronavirus, besides the time and place of his death was not in compliance with what is in the regulations on medical workers’ injury insurance, the local government’s ministry of human resources and social security said on Thursday.

His family has already submitted an application to the ministry for an administrative review of Liu’s case.

Zhu Wei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, supports Liu’s family’s application, arguing that the government’s judgement and argument is not legitimate or valid based on the expanded revision of the Work Injury Insurance Regulations in 2014.

According to the revision, as long as injuries or deaths happen for a work-related reason and during a time period before or after working hours on a reasonable scale, they should all be recognized as work injury. In Liu’s case, his death meets the responding criteria, Zhu told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The announcement also triggered heated discussion on China’s social media about whether the government’s judgement is reasonable.

“Doctor Liu’s death is a result of a long-term heavy workload, risking his own health and life during and after work. I think it should not only be recognized as work injury but also a martyr sacrifice,” wrote a netizen on Sina Weibo.

Some Weibo users argued that relevant regulations should be re-adjusted to show more care and concern for frontline medical workers for their extraordinary contribution in this tough battle against the deadly virus.

“Rigidly following the specifics of the regulation is meaningless and will hurt the feelings of medics and their families,” wrote another netizen.

Zhu noted a similar controversial case happened to a teacher who died from overworking in South China’s Hainan Province in 2011. The teacher’s death was not affirmed as work injury until 2018 after years of appeal by her family.

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