Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan said she felt deeply ashamed that a woman in the northwestern city of Xian lost her unborn baby after a hospital refused to admit her because of an expired Covid-19 test result.
Sun said on Thursday that despite the pandemic, medical institutions should not refuse patients for any reason, and the episode showed that coronavirus containment efforts had been found wanting, state news agency Xinhua reported.
“That this problem arose was very heart-wrenching and I feel deeply ashamed,” she was quoted as saying. “It showed that outbreak prevention work had problems with not being sufficiently strict or down to earth. The lesson learned was deep.”
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Several hospital staff members have been sacked or suspended and local health officials have been given warnings over the incident. A video circulated online showed the woman, who was eight months pregnant, sitting outside Xian Gaoxin Hospital with blood running down her legs. Her niece said she was refused entry for having a Covid-19 test result four hours too old.
Xian’s anti-epidemic task force on Friday banned hospitals from refusing admission on the basis of someone not having a negative test result from the previous 48 hours, saying people in that category would be tested at the hospital.
It also ordered all health centres to open for people with regular illnesses and said that they should not be closed because of staff helping to conduct mass testing.
Xian has been in Covid-19 lockdown for 16 days. At least 150 cases a day were detected in the northwestern city in the last week of 2021, but the daily count has since fallen.
The National Health Commission on Friday reported 116 new symptomatic local cases, with 57 of them in Xian. Another 56 cases were identified in the central province of Henan, where an outbreak began to worsen on Wednesday. The remaining three cases were reported in Zhejiang province, in the east.
Three asymptomatic local cases were also reported, all in Shanghai. Of the 100 imported cases, 58 were symptomatic.
Sun said medical institutions must triage patients according to their medical needs.
“For patients in emergency or critical condition, whether or not they have proof of a test result, medical staff must treat them immediately after ensuring they are well protected themselves,” she said.
Every district in Xian must arrange for designated hospitals to receive patients, and neighbourhood communities should arrange transport to send people directly to those hospitals, she said. Under the country’s protocols, permission is needed to leave residential compounds – such as those in Xian – that are in full lockdown.
A second woman in Xian had reportedly lost her unborn child after a hospital turned her away on the grounds that she lived in a “closed loop” area that, under lockdown rules, she was not supposed to leave.
Another woman wrote on Weibo that her father had died after having a heart attack and spending hours trying in vain to find a hospital that would admit him.
Sun also pledged to increase the capacity of 120, the emergency telephone number, after complaints that calls were not getting through.
Xinhua reported that the governments in Xian and Shaanxi province, of which Xian is the capital, had set up an investigation task force aimed at improving medical services after the loss of the unborn baby.
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