Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 4 News List

China punishes 1,248 health workers

AFP , BEIJING

China last year punished 1,248 health workers for corrupt practices including taking commissions from drug companies to ply their drugs, and vowed to step up a crackdown this year, reports said yesterday.

The punishments were imposed after the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection asked the health ministry to investigate illegal deals by hospital staff, Xinhua news agency said.

Among their findings, health officials uncovered 216 cases of medical workers illegally buying and selling medicine for personal profit.

Of those, 179 cases which involved 10.99 million yuan (US$1.34 million) were handed over to judiciary departments, with 282 people punished, Xinhua quoted the head of the investigation team as saying.

Health workers were also found to be taking commissions from patients for surgery after they had already paid the normal hospital fees.

Authorities punished 142 health workers for the wrongdoings.

China's health workers are poorly paid. It has become common for patients to give doctors red envelopes stuffed with money as the only way to ensure they or their sick relatives receive good care.

Another 824 people were punished for charging other illegal medical fees, with 3.99 million yuan (US$487,000) involved, Xinhua said.

Health Minister Gao Qiang (高強) told a recent nationwide health meeting that most Chinese health workers were doing a good job, dedicating themselves to saving lives and fighting diseases.

But some became corrupt and neglected their duties, he said, adding that those should be punished without mercy.

Gao said this year the ministry will continue to crack down on corruption in the health sector and take additional measures. He did not elaborate.

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