Li Keqiang

Vice-Premier weighs in on HIV patients hospital rejection

Tianjin facility faces punishment for denying cancer patient care after finding he had virus

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:13am


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Tianjin's Health Bureau says a hospital that rejected a lung cancer patient after finding out he was infected with HIV will face serious punishment.

The man later forged his medical chart and had the surgery performed. The resulting uproar has even prompted Vice-Premier Li Keqiang to weigh in on the case.

After seeing a news report about the case on Wednesday, Li called an unidentified health minister and demanded that the health authorities take concrete measures to "ensure the rights of HIV/Aids patients to medical care without any discrimination as well as the personal safety of the health workers who treat or are in close contact with these patients", the Ministry of Health said.

Tianjin's Health Bureau said an initial investigation had found that the Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital discharged the patient after finding out he had HIV/Aids and it was studying the law with a view to imposing serious punishment on those involved.

Another Tianjin hospital, which performed the surgery, did not see any in-hospital contagion or contamination, but the bureau also said HIV/Aids patients should not withhold information about their condition from doctors to avoid spread of the virus.

A 2006 law on the prevention and control of HIV/Aids forbids medical institutions from denying treatment to patients with HIV/Aids, but they say they still face unfair discrimination, even at hospitals. They say they are frequently denied medical care once their HIV status is revealed, and some have had to hide the condition from doctors or choose not to go to hospital. Some doctors turn down HIV/Aids patients by saying they should seek treatment in a specialised infectious-diseases hospital.

The patient, 25, was turned down by three hospitals at the outpatient consultation stage because of his HIV infection and later stayed at the Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital for 18 days in October before being discharged on the grounds that a pre-operation blood test showed he was infected with HIV. He was advised to seek treatment elsewhere, according to a copy of medical chart provided by HIV/Aids rights activist Li Hu.

After being turned down again by a hospital in Beijing, which openly admits HIV/Aids patients but does not have a thoracic surgery department, the man used a tactic adopted by many HIV patients repeatedly denied medical care because of their HIV infection: he withheld his medical history.

Nearly three weeks ago he forged his medical chart, blocking out mention of his HIV status when making copies, and bypassed the pre-operation test at a top hospital in Tianjin, where he successfully had the tumour removed.

The patient then informed the hospital of his HIV infection and immediately noticed a change in the attitude of staff.

"When giving injections, the nurse stayed as far away as possible and asked his 70-year-old granny to hold and turn the thermometer so that the nurse could read the temperature without touching it," Li said.

The patient was discharged a week after surgery.