China’s Xi’an hospital punished for refusing entry to pregnant woman

Hospital officials in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an have been punished after a pregnant woman — who later miscarried — was refused entry, reportedly for not having current COVID-19 test results.

Key points:

  • The pregnant woman was suffering abdominal pain but was forced to wait outside the hospital
  • Video taken by her husband showing a pool of blood at her feet
  • The hospital was ordered to issue a public apology and provide compensation

The city government announced on Thursday that Gaoxin Hospital General Manager Fan Yuhui has been suspended and the heads of the outpatient department and medical department sacked.

A government statement said the incident “caused widespread concern in society and caused a severe social impact”.

The statement was read at a news conference by the head of the city’s health department, Liu Shunzhi, who bowed in apology to the woman, who is undergoing recovery, and for “providing poor access to medical treatment and inadequate service for those with special requirements”.

The system will “open green channels for those with special needs and make every effort to ensure all received attention amid the pandemic,” state media quoted Mr Liu as saying.

Xi’an has been under strict lockdown for more than two weeks.(AP: Chinatopix)LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic

The pregnant woman was suffering abdominal pain but was forced to wait outside the hospital on a pink plastic stool for two hours on New Year’s Day.

She then began bleeding uncontrollably, according to widely circulated accounts that accompanied a video taken by her husband showing a pool of blood at her feet.

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Xi’an, a city of 13 million, has been under strict lockdown for more than two weeks, prompting scattered criticisms over shortages of food and heavy-handed behaviour by authorities, who are under intense pressure to bring down COVID-19 case numbers.

The city said an investigation into the incident was carried out but gave no details.

The hospital was ordered to issue a public apology, provide compensation and “optimise the medical treatment process”.

It wasn’t clear how many hospital staff had been punished in total, but they joined a growing list of officials disciplined over their handling of the outbreak.

The city government on Thursday said two other ranking officials with the Xi’an Emergency Centre and Xi’an Municipal Health Commission had been given formal warnings by the ruling Communist Party.

Officials claim community transmission halted

Someone wearing full PPE hands a man a tray of eggs. A community volunteer hands over eggs to a buyer amid Xi’an’s lockdown.(Chinatopix/AP)

On Thursday, Xi’an recorded another 63 cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant, bringing its total over its month-long outbreak to more than 1,800, with no reported deaths.

Officials have said the city, home to the famed Terracotta Warriors statues along with major industries, has basically halted community transmission because all of the new cases were among people already quarantined.

While those numbers are relatively small compared to outbreaks in the US and elsewhere, they come less than a month before Beijing is due to host the Winter Olympic Games.

That has put officials under intense pressure to contain infections, prompting a stepping up of already severe measures under China’s “zero tolerance” strategy of quarantining every case, conducting mass testing and placing entire cities under lockdown.

Read more about the spread of COVID-19:

Xi’an’s main airport suspended all international flights on Wednesday.

Domestic flights had already been put on hold as part of measures to seal off the city. Tens of thousands of close contacts of infected people have been placed in quarantine centres.

Authorities are also implementing increasingly stringent measures following an outbreak in Henan province, just west of Shaanxi province, of which Xi’an is the capital.

People register for tests at a COVID-19 testing site where staff are wearing white protective suits. China’s zero-transmission program includes frequent lockdowns, universal masking and mass testing.(AP: Xinhua/Shao Rui)

One city in the province, Yuzhou, was also placed under lockdown after the discovery of three asymptomatic cases.

Since then, case numbers have been ticking up, with 55 reported by Thursday afternoon.

Only emergency vehicles are allowed on the roads, classes have been suspended and businesses catering to the public have closed for all but essential needs in the city of 1.17 million.

Several other cities in the province have ordered mass testing and shut public venues, despite only small numbers of cases being detected.

In neighbouring Shanxi province, the city of Yongji and its population of almost 500,000 was placed under lockdown after traces of coronavirus were detected at an exit point at the local train station.

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