Miscommunication source of conflicts

Updated: 2013-10-29 00:00

By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Miscommunication and the changing attitudes of the family of a fatally stabbed doctor were the causes of a conflict between a hospital's medical staff, who sided with the family, and its leaders over how to deal with the victim's body, hospital officials said.

Wang Yunjie, a chief physician in the hospital's otolaryngological department, was stabbed to death on Friday, allegedly by an unhappy patient of the department.

Hundreds of medical workers from the First People's Hospital of Wenling in Zhejiang province and the victim's family members besieged the hospital's morgue until Sunday night, after they learned hospital officials insisted on relocating Wang's body without the agreement of his family.

The move infuriated the medical staff and Wang's family, who were grieving his loss.

The angry staff had also vowed to demonstrate in front of the hospital on Monday morning, sharing information and plans on mobile messaging and micro-blogging services.

Hospital officials said on Monday that the conflict was caused by a misunderstanding of the hospital's decision and by Wang's family members being unable to reach a unified decision. They also said the issue has been peacefully resolved and most of the hospital's workers have returned to work.

According to an official from the hospital president's office, hospital officials had reached an oral agreement with Wang's family to move the body to a funeral home on Sunday, instead of on a busy Monday, so as to not disturb the hospital's operation. They called in staff at the weekend for a farewell ceremony at the hospital.

"But there were too many opinions given by the victim's friends and family," said the official, who declined to reveal her name, adding that the family changed their minds twice and raised different questions over the terms of the agreement.

During the stalemate, a family member knelt down in front of a hospital official to plead to move Wang's body on Monday morning. "The move led to an outburst of sympathy from the medical workers present," the official said.

The group then blocked the hospital's outpatient department. During the conflict, two police cars, which had been patrolling since Friday in case of any emergencies, drove close and sounded their sirens.

Though no officers exited the police cars, it made the crowd believe the hospital had sought police help to "snatch the body", the official said.

After negotiations, the hospital reached an agreement with the family, said the official, declining to disclose the terms. Wang's body was transferred to a funeral house at 5:30 am on Monday and most of the medical workers returned to work.

Another official who answered the phone at the hospital's general duty room told China Daily he approved of the explanations given by the official at the hospital president's office.

"Wang was one of the mid-level officials at the hospital and we treated him like a brother and feel great sorrow at losing him," he said without giving his name. He also said the hospital has given proper care to Wang's family since his death.

Li Bin, minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, has urged severe punishment for the suspect and condemned any harming of medical workers.

According to police, the suspect, 33-year-old Lian Enqing, was not one of Wang's patients but underwent surgery at the hospital for rhinitis and other nasal problems on March 18, 2012.

Lian was unsatisfied with the results and filed appeals demanding more surgery multiple times, but was declined after inspections by doctors from both the First People's Hospital of Wenling and other institutions, who viewed the surgery as successful.

At about 8:30 am on Friday, Lian broke into Wang's consulting room and, after talking briefly, hit him on the head with a hammer.

As Wang, 46, tried to escape to the consulting room across, Lian chased him and stabbed him several times with a 30-centimeter-long knife.

During the dispute, Wang Weijie, 60, who was checking patients in an adjacent office, tried to subdue the suspect and was also injured.

After also trying to attack the doctor who performed his surgery and failing, Lian rushed downstairs where he stabbed Jiang Xiaoyong, a doctor who was working in the hospital's CT room.

Footage from the hospital's surveillance cameras shows the attacks took only five minutes before Lian was subdued by security guards and patients.

Police said Lian has confessed his motive and they are talking to witnesses and hospital workers in their investigation.

Wang Weijie was in stable condition and Jiang, who is in the hospital's intensive care unit, has injuries that are not life-threatening, the hospital said on Monday.

The Chinese Medical Doctor Association condemned the crime and conveyed its condolences to the victim's families.

Yuan Yaming, deputy secretary-general of the association, said on Monday he had visited Wang's family and the two injured doctors and granted each family 5,000 yuan ($820) from a fund the association set up for medical workers' rights protection.

Other doctors also expressed sympathy toward the victims, and called for deep medical reform to show more care to medical workers.

"The heavy workload and low salaries don't match the efforts made by many doctors. Most doctors cannot work with proper dignity and respect," said Yu Fei, a doctor from Shanghai No 10 People's Hospital. "It's quite necessary for related departments to work out some effective rules to better protect the rights of doctors, and improve the social status of doctors."

Wang Hongyi in Shanghai and Wang Qingyun in Beijing contributed to this story.