Aside from being shocked at the treatment of pediatricians in China, what can we in the United States learn from their experience?
If well-educated professionals are severely underpaid and overworked, they will leave.
If medical care is run by corporations (in China, corporations owned by the government) who are mainly interested in the bottom line, medical care (and the professionals who provide it) become corrupted.
In a corrupt health care system, patients (and their parents) have no trust in their physicians, who may, for example, sell them unneeded tests or medications without spending much time with them.
If things go wrong, then it's easy to blame the physician and easy to become angry enough over being “cheated” to attack the physician physically.
If the health care system is not regarded as a necessary part of society's infrastructure, but instead is a profit-seeking venture, it becomes corrupt.
If the government doesn't see the availability of quality health care as a priority and doesn't provide enough funding to cover the health care needs of the population, government-owned hospitals and their employed professional staffs cannot do their work successfully.
Although there are many ways in which the US health care system is working better than China's, we should pay attention to what happens when the public loses any respect for the profession of medicine and what happens when physicians are seen as tools of huge medical corporations that are much more interested in cutting costs and maximizing profits than they are in providing actual health care.
Yes, there are lessons for us in this story.
Conflict of Interest:
Dr Weinberg is president of Physicians for a National Health Program, Western Washington Chapter, an advocacy group for universal health coverage in the United States.
- Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics