Shanghai to launch mediation system for medical disputes

Updated: 2014-02-21 07:05

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Shanghai will introduce a directive next month to help ease the increasingly acute relationship between patients and doctors, which has resulted in death or injury to medical staff in recent cases.

"The rule was formulated to prevent and settle doctor-patient disputes, which have become a big problem in society. It will help protect both parties' legal rights and maintain order in medical institutes," said Liu Ping, deputy director of the legal department of the municipal government.

The Shanghai Medical Dispute Prevention and Mediation Measures feature a mediation mechanism, in which relevant parties can apply to a mediation committee. Public medical institutes must cooperate with the mediation work even if patients apply for it unilaterally.

Meanwhile, medical institutes should inform patients to seek mediation when compensation exceeds 30,000 yuan ($4,900).

To improve patients' trust in the new procedure, an advisory team has been established to provide professional consultation for medical disputes.

So far, the team has 922 experts from the fields of medical science, law, forensic medicine, psychology and other areas.

"In the past, some patients questioned the justice of investigation work because many experts in charge were from the medical system, who might be partial. But now, the experts have various backgrounds in different fields. This will help build credibility," said Zhao Yong, deputy director of the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission.

Besides, experts who may share an interest with either of the parties in a dispute should withdraw, according to the rule.

In recent years, a number of medical disputes that have escalated into attacks on medical staff members have been reported across the country.

The latest happened in Yixian, a county in Hebei province, on Tuesday when a surgeon's throat was cut by a patient who was reportedly unsatisfied with his medical treatment.

The day before, a 45-year-old doctor in an ear, nose and throat department at a hospital in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, was beaten to death by a young patient. The 19-year-old broke into the doctor's office and hit him on the head with a steel pipe.

According to the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, the country has seen 16 violent attacks on medical staff with many resulting in death and serious injury. Surgery and emergency rooms are the main places for attacks.

The increased violence has drawn widespread attention from the public, who have called for more effective solutions.

Since 2006 Shanghai has been exploring ways to settle disputes, carrying out pilot mediation projects in some districts. Such trials have been expanded in the city from 2011, with some positive results.

According to the municipal government, 6,784 medical dispute cases were received by the people's mediation committee from August 2011 to 2013. Nearly 82 percent were settled through the procedure, involving 298 million yuan.

In 2013 alone, the committee received more than 3,000 cases, while before 2011, fewer than 1,000 cases were received each year, a government official said.

"The mediation mechanism has seen some good results, but more work should be done, especially to improve the professionalism of the mediators and to standardize the mediation program," said Li Heping, deputy director of Shanghai Medical Dispute Mediation Work Office.

"Medical disputes involve professional judgment in the fields of medicine and law and are highly complicated. In this regard, the mediators should be more professional," said Li.

To date, the city has 123 medical mediators, and of these, 30 percent have a medical background and 50 percent have a legal background.