Health

New promises mean little to long-time dialysis patient

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2009, 12:00am

The central government started the New Rural Co-operative Medical Care System in 2003 as a way to provide basic services to 910 million people living in the countryside.

The three-year road map released yesterday devotes a lot of space to improving medical services and easing the cost for rural residents. But for Sun Wenjuan, a long-term kidney patient, the document's promises rang hollow.

The 26-year-old native of a small county in Hebei came to Beijing at the age of 18 to become a waitress in a state-owned guesthouse and ease the financial burden of her farmer parents. But within a year she was found to have uraemia, a form of blood poisoning.

Her family and fellow villagers collected 40,000 yuan (HK$45,400) in donations for her to have a kidney transplant in 2002 - the donor being her mother - but the operation failed.

Another operation by an unknown donor also failed, forcing her to rely on five hours of dialysis every other day to survive. As if her misfortune were not devastating enough, she contracted hepatitis B and C during the dialysis.

Because she worked at the guesthouse for a year, she was covered by basic medical insurance for urban employees, which takes care of around 80 per cent of her dialysis bill. But the nightmare started after her insurance expired one year later. With no insurance and having spent all of her family's money on treatment, Ms Sun was kicked out of the hospital.

She survived on donations from readers of the South China Morning Post, which have supported her dialysis treatments for the past five years. But the money is running out.

At the medical insurance office her mother was told she could not claim any money because 'your daughter has been taken care of by donations'.

Frustrated and angered, Ms Sun's mother made repeated visits, and she received 1,000 yuan the next year.

'But ... they gave it as a means to stop us from visiting - more like charity,' she said.

Her mother went to the office last year to try to make claims, but so far those efforts have been in vain.

'I was told if I wanted to have my medical bills claimed, I need to receive inpatient treatment, which will result in a bill of at least 9,000 yuan because of the dialysis and ward fees. Then the co-operative covers only 30 to 50 per cent of the bill, meaning I still need to pay more than 5,000 yuan,' Ms Sun said.

'It is simpler if I just receive the treatment in Beijing and pay 5,000 yuan a month.'

Ms Sun said the new blueprint, which allows greater flexibility to choose hospitals and recoup compensation in the same insurance co-ordination area, was unlikely to help.

'Do you think a Hebei village will be in the same co-ordination area with Beijing? I don't think so.'