BEIJING (AP) — Chinese health authorities put a hospital president on probation and fired three other supervisors following public outrage over photos posted online of smiling medical staff posing with patients in the middle of surgery.
The photos were taken in August at privately owned Fengcheng Hospital in the north-central city of Xi’an and leaked on social media over the weekend. Online commentators criticized medical staff for being unprofessional and disrespectful of patients, while others defended the photos, saying they were intended to be private and were taken at the end of surgical procedures.
Tensions have run high between health workers and patients in China. Patients often complain about poor medical services and high costs, especially the need to bribe doctors and nurses in exchange for competent services. Chinese health workers say they are overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.
The Xi’an Bureau of Public Health, which handed out the punishment, said in a statement Sunday that the staff at Fengcheng took the photos to memorialize the operating room, which was to be relocated.
Nevertheless, the bureau said the picture-snapping violated proper medical procedures and had a negative social impact. It requested everyone involved in the photo scandal to offer “deep” self-criticisms. The bureau also put the hospital president on probation for one year and fired a deputy president, the head nurse and the person in charge of anesthetics.
The bureau also demanded that the hospital issue an open apology and rectify its management to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Wall Street Journal (Blog)
Senior executives and a team of medical staff at a Chinese hospital in the central city of Xi’an are under fire after the medical workers took to snapping and posting online a series of jolly selfies in the operating room after successful surgeries.
In a case that seems tailor-made to underline the dangers of abusing social media at work, the doctors and nurses, clad in green and masked in blue, are seen in the selfies mugging for the camera while posing next to apparently still-unconscious patients. Some have their arms akimbo. Others have torn their masks aside to show their winning beams. One of them holds his fingers aloft in a V-sign.
The Xi’an Bureau of Public Health took action after the images, taken in August, made their way into the Internet and eventually to media outlets in Shaanxi province, where Xi’an is situated. In a statement Sunday, the government bureau said it’s cashiered two top executives and several other medical staff at the privately-run Xi’an Fengcheng Hospital.
The hospital’s executive president, surnamed Yan, was put on a year’s probation and had three months’ pay docked, the bureau said. A hospital vice president surnamed Chen also had three months’ pay deducted. A chief of anesthesiology and the chief nurse surnamed were removed from administrative duty, and had part of their bonuses cut. The bureau declined to reveal the staff’s full names. Fengcheng didn’t respond immediately to calls for comment.
The government agency also ordered the hospital to make a public apology and “carry out reform.” All others found participating in the selfies – technically, these are “wefies”– were also told to write “self-reflection reports” and had their bonuses cut, the bureau said.
The punishments didn’t come soon enough to stop the “surgery selfie” hashtag from surging to the top of Chinese microblogging platforms on Monday morning, with the post on the subject from a local newspaper scoring 52 million views.
There have been other cases of selfies that triggered massive social backlash. But in China, where public frustration with the quality of medical care runs high and doctor-patient relationships have a disturbing tendency to erupt into violence, the smocked-up selfies appeared to have touched a nerve.
“These are serious procedures, the patient is still lying there, and the doctors are posing for selfies! This is malicious provocation,” one blogger wrote.
– Chuin-Wei Yap. Follow him on Twitter @YapCW.