China health official is punished over video games, bribery


A health worker gets a swab sample from a woman to be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus at a swab collection site in Beijing. People across China were outraged earlier this year when two hospitals denied care to a pregnant woman and a man who later died after suffering a heart attack. — AFP

A health-care official has been kicked out of China’s ruling Communist Party for offences including “long-term addiction to mobile games” following an uproar over a woman who suffered a miscarriage because she was refused care while the city of Xi’an was locked down.

Li Qiang, former head of the Xi’an Medical Emergency Center, will face criminal prosecution for dereliction of duty, embezzlement, and accepting “huge amounts of money and property” as bribes, graft investigators said in a statement late Tuesday.

Li “crossed the bottom line of laws and regulations”, the statement from authorities in the central province of Shaanxi said. “At a critical time in Xi’an’s pandemic prevention and control efforts, his work was seriously irresponsible, which triggered severe negative public opinion on the Internet, leading to bad social impact.”

People across China were outraged earlier this year when two hospitals denied care to a pregnant woman and a man who later died after suffering a heart attack. The incidents prompted Vice Premier Sun Chunlan to say medical facilities across the world’s No. 2 economy “must not turn away patients under any excuse”. The two hospitals were temporarily closed and their medical chiefs fired.

Li was reprimanded in January by Xi’an authorities for “malpractice”, though the government statement didn’t provide details at the time. A person who said she was a relative of the pregnant woman wrote on the Weibo social media platform that ambulance dispatchers at Xi’an Medical Emergency Center didn’t answer phone calls.

Xi’an, a city of 13 million people, was locked down from December last year for about a month, causing shortages of food and medical care. – Bloomberg

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