The Sanming city government in Fujian has suspended two public-hospital doctors over the 'accidental' deaths of four patients in one month, Xinhua reported yesterday. Relatives of victims of accidental hospital deaths receive little - if any - compensation on the mainland. The suspended doctors are anaesthetists Huang Shuo and Qiu Shunnian of Sanming No2 Hospital. The hospital's anaesthetic section chief, Wu Shansu, has stepped down from his administrative post, but continues to practise. Three of the patients died on the operating table last month. The fourth died early this month while recovering from surgery. An investigation by the Fujian Health Department found that all four deaths were linked to anaesthesia. But the investigators found no evidence of clinical malpractice. The investigative team, comprising more than 10 anaesthesia experts in Fujian, concluded from records that the selection, administration and dosage of the drugs used were in line with standard practice, and the emergency procedures carried out when the patients' condition deteriorated were also strictly by the book, Xinhua said. Death from anaesthesia is difficult to determine because of the complicating factors of surgery and disease, but four deaths in a month is abnormal. In developed countries, the death rate from anaesthesia is about four or five patients per million. Overall anaesthesia mortality rates are not available on the mainland, but in Tianjin it took seven hospitals more than five years to record the four deaths the Sanming hospital reported in a month. The No2 Hospital is one of the biggest and most advanced medical institutes in the city of 2 million people. The Ministry of Health has called it one of the 'best 100 hospitals in China', but has carried out its own investigation and temporarily closed half the hospital's operating theatres.