A tale of the swine flu, November 17:
I was recently diagnosed with H1N1 – swine flu. Except it wasn’t quite that simple. According to government regulations, I should have been required to visit an official “fever clinic,” and probably given a week-long stay in a government quarantine center.
Officially, therefore, I wasn’t diagnosed with H1N1, and the doctor instructed me that – officially – I had never been to see him. He gave me a course of Tamiflu and sent me on my way, with instructions not to leave my apartment for a week. If I noticed no improvement, I would be required to go to a fever clinic, but I was not to say that I had been to see a doctor before.
The government’s aggressive fight against H1N1 is an encouraging departure from the SARS debacle, but having suffered through the more recent disease, I will say that its new approach seems disproportionate. By imposing draconian measures on what is essentially a bad flu, health officials have created an environment where doctors and patients are driven to lie, a worrying foundation on which to build future public health initiatives.
China’s health care reform needs to address hospital waiting times, November 10:
People regularly line up at hospitals at 2 or 3 a.m. to be the first in line to see a doctor when examinations begin at 9 a.m. each morning. For those that can’t get out there that early, there are scalpers who stand in line and sell their place to the highest bidder.
Beijing has said its US$124 billion health care reform package will have a component on hospital restructuring, but nowhere has there been much talk of a time-definite appointment system. Right now, all you can do is request a specific doctor for an appointment within the next two weeks. You don’t get to choose the date.
The inconvenience of the current system is one reason many people wait until they have a major health problem before they visit the doctor. That has a cascading effect: Many of the patients that doctors see may have major medical problems, but doctors don’t have time to properly examine them.
A clearer appointment system would help to get patients in hospitals before their medical ailments become serious, and keep waiting rooms less crowded.