China's ongoing nationwide anti-corruption campaign in the medical sector has drawn public attention.
This campaign began in May when 14 departments, including the National Health Commission (NHC), jointly issued a notice to eliminate improper practices in the procurement and sales of medical products as well as those in medical services. In late July, the NHC and nine other departments jointly launched a yearlong campaign to root out corruption in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. Initial statistics showed that by mid-August, more than 170 hospital heads, as well as a large number of hospital department directors and pharmaceutical executives, had been investigated.
Problems in the healthcare sector have always been a matter of public concern, as people should be able to access medical services conveniently and safely at reasonable cost. Attention has long focused on issues such as the difficulty and cost of obtaining quality care. The ongoing anti-corruption drive is also taking direct aim at problems in the healthcare system, including pricing transparency, inadequate supervision and the unbalanced distribution of medical resources. For example, some hospital staff in more powerful positions have been able to obtain illegal income from the procurement of drugs, medical equipment and supplies, and the construction of hospital buildings, harming public interest.
According to a case published on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the disciplinary watchdog of the Communist Party of China, a medical device with an import price of 15 million yuan ($2 million) was sold to a hospital for 35.2 million yuan ($4.8 million), with the hospital head receiving a kickback of up to 16 million yuan ($2.2 million). The consequences of such corruption will eventually be passed on to patients in the form of higher medical fees, increasing the burden on the public.
Despite the malpractices of some hospital administrators, drug and equipment suppliers, and physicians, medical professionals generally carry heavy workloads, and the medical profession is widely respected. The purpose of the anti-corruption campaign is not to subject doctors to public humiliation, which would be unfair and unjust to the vast majority of them. Instead, it will show the public the government's determination to eliminate malpractices and establish a clean medical sector.