Taking a scalpel to hospital ticket scalpers

Updated: 2016-02-04 07:45

By Zhang Yi and Wang Xiaodong(China Daily)

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Resources shortfall

Huang Yuguang, a professor of anesthesiology at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said the scalping trade is the result of a severe shortage of high-quality medical resources that leaves hospitals unable to cope with the high demand for treatment.

"The distribution of quality medical resources varies greatly in different regions, and between urban and rural areas," he said. "The hospitals that people are really dissatisfied with fall far short of requirements."

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, the city's top health authority, said that "Grade A" hospitals, ranked at the top of the three-tier public hospital system, treated 110 million patients in 2014, more than twice the number in 2010, and many of the patients came from other parts of China.

Ni Xin, president of the Beijing Children's Hospital, said patients from outside Beijing outnumber those from the city at some of the capital's larger hospitals. More than 70 percent of patients at the hospital - which has provided clinical services to an average 10,000 people every day in recent years - come from outside Beijing.

According to Huang, the professor, the high demand for services is driving the problem: "The excessive demand has provided business opportunities for scalpers." He added that patients from outside Beijing often find it difficult to obtain registration tickets for popular hospitals, so they buy them from scalpers.

"Police raids only deter scalpers in the short term, but they cannot eliminate them altogether," he said.

In most large hospitals in Beijing and other areas of the country, patients are required to use their ID card to register in person. Many large hospitals also provide online- and telephone-registration services, but an ID number is still required.

A recent report in the Beijing Times said that although "real name" registration is required by many big hospitals, loopholes still exist. For example, the online- and phone-registration platforms are not linked to the Public Security Bureau's ID database, so scalpers simply input a false name and number to obtain a reservation. When the scalper finds a patient willing to buy the ticket, he cancels the original reservation and immediately reserves a new ticket using the buyer's ID.

"Fighting the scalpers requires coordinated efforts by different government departments," Huang said, adding that one solution would be to improve training for doctors at grassroots hospitals to narrow the gap with large hospitals and attract more patients.

In addition, the registration fees at big hospitals should be raised to encourage patients with minor ailments to seek treatment at smaller hospitals, he said.

"Most common illnesses, such as flu, can be treated effectively at smaller hospitals," he said. "But patients with minor ailments still swarm to the big hospitals because there is little difference between the registration fees in big hospitals and smaller ones."

Contact the writers through zhang_yi@chinadaily.com.cn

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