Health authority probes alleged layoffs of 40 medical staff who fought COVID-19

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/1 23:24:17

Medics from northwest China's Shaanxi Province wave goodbye before their departure in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, March 17, 2020. At about 7 a.m. Tuesday, 43 medics from northwest China's Shaanxi Province left Wuhan on nine buses. The first batch of medics have been scheduled to depart Hubei, once the hard-hit province of the novel coronavirus, on Tuesday, as the epidemic situation has been greatly eased. The 3,675 medical staffers belonging to 41 medical teams from across China have assisted 14 temporary hospitals and seven designated hospitals in Wuhan, the provincial capital and epicenter of the outbreak. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

The health authority of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province has started investigating reports that more than 40 medical staff who had treated COVID-19 patients during the epidemic were fired, which sparked a huge public outcry online.

The Xianyang Health Commission late Friday required the Xianyang Maternal and Child Health Hospital to suspend laying off medical staff and established teams to investigate the issue.

This comes after the hospital on Friday debunked the report, saying it was false news that could be exploited by foreign forces.

An article published by Henan-based news site Dahebao on Thursday suspected the hospital of suddenly firing over 40 medical staff, most of whom were treating COVID-19 patients during the epidemic. 

In a statement posted on Friday on Sina Weibo, which was later deleted, Xianyang Maternal and Child Health Hospital clarified that the hospital had released a scheme to end contracts with some medial staff in November 2019 as it downsized their departments last year. However, due to the epidemic, the plan was delayed. 

Mediation and compensation agreements had been reached with most of the employees per laws and regulations. For some other individuals, the city's labor dispute arbitration committee had been in the process of dealing with the labor disputes with them.  

The Dahebao quoted some online netzines claiming the hospital decided to fire those medical staff and required them to "quit voluntarily" by signing a document. Seven out of those 40 declined to sign the "voluntary quit" agreement drew up by the hospital, the report said.

The hospital said previously that the labor disputes with some individuals were filed and will soon open the court for a hearing. Some media deliberately hyped the issue by taking advantage of the epidemic, and their behavior seriously violated cyberspace security law and infringes on the rights of the hospital, it said.

The epidemic is not only a domestic issue but a global one, the hospital said in a statement, warning such false report would be exploited by some hostile foreign forces. "Such false reports may be used by some behind the scenes, or by hostile foreign forces, who may use the outbreak to incite people who do not know the truth, eventually causing social problems." 

However, the statement made by the hospital were deleted from Sina Weibo by Friday night.

Medical staff who had fought for the COVID-19 epidemic had won full recognition among Chinese people. China's State Council had said in March that medical staff who had participated in the frontline epidemic fight are to be given subsidies.

The hospital and the local health authority cannot be reached as of press time for further comments.

According to Dahebao, among those to be "fired," 26 were nurses with professional certificates. Many of them had been working for the hospital for at least three years and some 10 years. 

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