Family Seeks Compensation Over Death of Elderly Woman in a Shandong Hospital — Radio Free Asia | #healthcare | #elderly | #seniors
The family of an elderly woman left with severe brain damage and died following treatment for cerebral hemorrhage at a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) hospital in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong has accused local officials of trying to cover up the incident.
Ma Guizhen, the elderly mother of Jiang Haixia, was admitted to the People’s Hospital in Shandong’s Penglai city for surgery for cerebral hemorrhage, before being transferred to the Penglai TCM Hospital on Dec. 24, 2018.
However, an incident involving a hyberbaric chamber on Jan. 6 left Ma with brain damage from hypoxia.
During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, family members tried to alert staff to changes in the oxygen levels, but the nurses had turned down the volume on the intercom linking the chamber to the control room, and couldn’t hear the family’s warnings.
“This delayed my mother’s rescue time and caused my mother to be deprived of oxygen for more than ten minutes,” Jiang told RFA.
Jiang also alleges that the chamber was operated by nurses who were pretending to be doctors.
The attending physician — who wasn’t present at the time of the accident — said he had resigned after the hospital told him not to take responsibility for Ma’s brain damage, and to cover up the incident.
“Sun Jie, who was head of department at the time, came to me and told me to hurry up and make this go away,” the physician, who gave only the surname Wang, told RFA.
“His solution was to get me to cover the whole thing up, but I wouldn’t, so he gave me a hard time at work after that,” Wang said.
The hospital director then told him that he should “take care of the situation.”
So Wang resigned.
‘Left in a hypoxic state’
Jiang said her mother, already brain-damaged, was subjected to a further bout of hypoxia at the same hospital on June 8, 2019.
“My mother was left in a hypoxic state for another hour, I discovered,” Jiang said.
The second incident caused Ma’s cardiopulmonary functions to collapse, and she was put on a ventilator on Aug. 9, and died on Sept. 14, Jiang said.
Wang, who was still the attending physician at that time, said he found something suspicious in Ma’s death.
“I made a timeline analyzing the entire treatment process at TCM hospital, and found that their malpractise had led to the death of the patient,” Wang said.
“If the usual resuscitation procedure had been followed, Jiang’s mother wouldn’t have died,” he said.
Jiang believes the hospital deliberately allowed her mother to die sooner than she otherwise might have.
“Keeping someone alive involves … a great deal of labor, medical resources and personnel, and the longer the patient’s lives, the greater the cost to them in terms of cost and resources,” she said.
Jiang then began the long and tortuous process of lodging formal complaints against the nurses operating the hyperbaric chamber, for illegally posing as doctors, and against local health bureau officials for dragging their feet on the complaints.
A later investigation by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s disciplinary arm found no evidence of neglect by Penglai municipal health bureau officials, however.
Penglai TCM Hospital was considered one of the top three TCM hospitals in January 2017.
The hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment manual clearly states that the equipment is a high-risk form of treatment requiring the presence of a qualified doctor at all times.
Compensation talks break down
Jiang entered negotiations with the hospital for compensation, but talks broke down because the management tried to avoid taking responsibility for harming her mother.
She also complained about the breach of procedure in operating the hyperbaric chamber. Health investigators from the city government agreed that the chamber had only been staffed by nurses at the time of the incident.
Yet despite this finding, the courts continued to delay Jiang’s claim for compensation, doubling regular fees and finding bureaucratic excuses to delay accepting the case.
Jiang has since been subjected to threats and harassment from officials at the Penglai municipal health bureau, as well as “warnings” from others linked to the healthcare profession.
“They told me that I should be careful because they won’t do it themselves but they’ll find a gang of thugs to do it, and you won’t be able to eat or walk afterwards,” Jiang said.
Jiang Hongmei, head of the supervision division of the Penglai municipal audit depatment, declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Thursday.
Hospital director Wu Longchao also declined to comment when contacted by RFA, while Penglai municipal health bureau director Zhang Hongsong hung up the phone.
Jiang Haixia’s lawyer, who gave only a surname Zhang, said she had filed two administrative lawsuits and tried to bring one criminal prosecution over the hospital’s treatment of her mother.
The court issued a judgment commenting on procedural issues at the hospital, but didn’t hold a substantice hearing, Zhang said.
“I filed the criminal complaint because those two nurses should be investigated,” he said. “I think they committed the crime of illegally practising medicine.”
Zhang is Jiang’s fourth defense lawyer. The other three relinquished the case after coming under intense political pressure from the authorities.
Another investigative group was set up after Jiang’s British husband filed a complaint at the Chinese consulate in the U.K.
It found that the Penglai TCM Hospital bore sole responsibility for the harm done to Ma Guizhen, and awarded a sum of 610,000 yuan in compensation, far below the 1.9 million yuan that was calculated as an appropriate payment by their own lawyer, Jiang said.
Jiang’s criminal case was also ignored.
“I believe in our laws, which are actually very good,” Jiang said. “But the difference between here and Europe or the U.S. is that nobody will enforce them, and the government breaks its own laws.”
Jiang said she will continue to pursue justice for Ma Guizhen.
Reported by Yi Bing for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.