H.I.V. patient fights burns, and the system

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2011, 12:00am


An HIV-positive patient with burns over a large part of her body is fighting for her life in Guangdong after local hospitals failed to provide proper treatment for her injuries. Her case has been seen as an example of discrimination.

Her plight showed there was something wrong with the way the mainland's medical system handled patients with infectious diseases, said a Shenzhen-based rights lawyer, Pang Kun, who went to the hospital to help her this week.

'She is a classical example,' Pang said. 'The doctors are considering the medical risks that she might be bringing to other patients if they admit her, but this is wrong.

'Her life is just as precious as any other patient's and she should not be discriminated against.'

Her plight was reported by local media, and Guangdong's deputy health minister visited her yesterday at Yingde City People's Hospital, where she has been for two weeks since her story emerged.

The 30-year-old woman, who declined to be identified, suffered third-degree burns over 85 per cent of her body in a petrol fire four months ago. She was briefly admitted to three hospitals in northern Guangdong's Yingde and Shaoguan cities, but did not get the urgent and proper treatment required. She was forced to receive treatment at home, relying on herbal medicine to try to counter her deficient immune system.

A deputy chief of the Yingde City People's Hospital, Li Yaobin, said she was unfit for a skin transplant as her open wounds still presented complications.

'She is now malnourished and needs basic medical care to boost her protein levels before considering a skin transplant,' Li said, adding that policy was to treat a patient with infectious diseases locally before transferring them to a hospital with better facilities and specialists.

Her 31-year-old husband said they had visited the Yuebei People's Hospital in Shaoguan, the Yingde City People's Hospital and the Yingde Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in the past four months. He said she was sent to the Yuebei hospital the day she was burned, but it presented them with a potential medical bill of 500,000 yuan (HK$610,000) after finding that she had HIV.

In the Yingde hospital where she is now, she previously stayed about three days. 'The doctors there didn't want to admit us and advised us to go to a more advanced hospital,' he said. They went home and she experienced difficulty breathing on July 3. In August, she suffered from internal complications at home that forced her husband to take her to the traditional medicine hospital, but they were told to leave because it did not have an infectious diseases unit.

'She is very strong,' said her husband, who asked not to be identified. 'She wishes to be treated in better hospitals with proper medicine and doctors, but it looks like this is never going to happen.'

Lo Wing-lok, an infectious disease specialist from Hong Kong, said the case was 'unacceptable'.