New rules on obstetrics to guard infants

Updated: 2013-08-28 07:54

By Ma Lie in Xi'an (China Daily)

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Experts and doctors have welcomed regulations by the health authority of Shaanxi province to improve the management of obstetric sections in hospitals.

A document released on Monday lists 10 regulations to improve safety measures in such units.

It prohibits obstetricians from transferring newborns to other locations without the presence of family members and mandates that those transfers be confirmed with signatures from staff in the delivery room and neonatal ward, and the family.

The regulations also ban any unauthorized removal of newborns from hospital wards.

The rules came after a baby trafficking scandal in July, in which Zhang Suxia, a doctor at Fuping Maternal and Child Healthcare Hospital, allegedly lied to parents who had babies at the hospital, saying the babies had congenital diseases and would not live long.

She convinced the parents to abandon the babies at the hospital and then sold them to traffickers.

After media exposure, police received reports of 55 similar cases from locals, including 26 cases in which Zhang was allegedly involved.

Nine suspects including Zhang were detained, three county government officials were fired and three top hospital leaders were dismissed over the scandal.

Ma Tao, an official with the medical affairs division of Shaanxi Provincial Health Department, said the regulations were created to close loopholes and eliminate hidden dangers in obstetric management, especially in county-level and township hospitals.

"From that case, we can see that Zhang dealt with babies without any supervision, and she could take the baby away without any measures to stop her," the provincial health official said.

The new regulations also ban obstetricians from diagnosing birth defects in newborns, stating such diagnoses must be made by pediatricians.

"We made the regulation to further strengthen the measures for doctors to treat newborns who have birth defects," said Ouyang Zhihuan, director of the medical affairs division of Shaanxi Health Department.

Sun Zhenlin, deputy director of the provincial health department, said the regulations will better protect the legitimate rights and interests of new mothers and newborns.

"The new regulations are an improvement and reiteration of previous obstetric management and rules, and those doctors and nurses who break the regulations will be punished in accordance with the rules and law concerned," Sun said.

Scandals such as the baby trafficking in Shaanxi province fueled long-term tension between doctors and patients in the country, said Zhang Yanling, director of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association.

He welcomed the introduction of stricter rules to better regulate clinical practices and prevent such incidents from recurring.

To enhance self-discipline among medical workers is equally important in the long run, Zhang said.

He suggested an open blacklist to name and shame medics based on regular evaluations.

China now has more than 2 million licensed medical doctors on the mainland, official statistics showed.

Shan Juan contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 08/28/2013 page6)