A Chinese ophthalmologist examines a patient at China-Ethiopia Friendship Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Aug 17 as part of a yearlong free assistance project. A Chinese medical team went to Ethiopia last year to carry out the program. [Photo/Xinhua]
China is working to secure sufficient rest and higher salaries for its medical workers, according to a new guideline issued by the country’s top health regulator.
The measures are aimed at protecting the rights of medical workers and to create an environment that facilitates their work.
The guidelines were jointly issued by the National Health Commission and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine on Aug 16 ahead of the first Chinese Medical Workers’ Day, which falls on Aug 19.
Hospitals should create work arrangements in accordance with the country’s Labor Law, as well as conforming to regulations on paid leave and working hours, to assure health workers of sufficient rest hours while meeting healthcare demands and safety standards, the guideline says.
Medical workers are also entitled to additional wages if they work overtime or skip paid leave because of heavy workloads, it says.
Around 80 percent of doctors in large hospitals in China say they can’t take a vacation because of their busy work schedules, said Zhang Yanling, president of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, citing a previous survey.
“Lack of vacation has resulted in poor health for many doctors－brought on by overwork,” he said.
In addition, hospitals and health centers will be allowed more freedom to increase salaries of medical personnel and are encouraged to raise the pay level of those in positions characterized by high risk and pressure.
“I think the salaries of doctors at community health centers in Beijing should be raised, as they are much lower than those in large public hospitals. This has made it difficult for community clinics to attract enough talent to cope with the rising number of patients,” said Wu Haitao, director of Xiluoyuan Community Health Center in Beijing’s Fengtai district.
Other measures laid out in the guideline include strengthening protections against hazards in the workplace, providing better social welfare, meals, housing and training programs and proactively seeking suggestions from doctors.
China is home to 3.39 million registered medical doctors and 900,000 health professionals working in rural areas as of the end of last year, according to the Chinese Medical Doctor Association.
However, an increase in medical disputes has undermined the doctor-patient relationship in China, it said, and doctors have become targets of violence. About 60 percent of medical workers have been subjected to verbal abuse, and 13 percent have been physically attacked, according to research released by the association in 2014.
In November, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, approved Aug 19 as Chinese Medical Workers’ Day in an effort to recognize the importance of hygiene and the contributions made by medical workers in China.
Hospitals and medical personnel were celebrating the new designated day on Aug 19. In Beijing on the morning of Aug 19, Peking University People’s Hospital hosted a free consultation session. More than 300 medical professionals from the hospital took part in providing information to the public.