Xian hospital staff punished after pregnant woman is refused entry over invalid Covid-19 test and loses baby

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The Chinese city of Xian has sacked or suspended several staff at a hospital where a woman who was reportedly eight months pregnant lost her baby after being refused admission because her Covid-19 test result had expired.

The manager of Xian Gaoxin Hospital was suspended and those in charge of the outpatient and medical departments were dismissed, the municipal government said on Thursday, after an investigation.

“The hospital should apologise to the public, actively reflect and sort out hidden risks in the work process, and further strengthen hospital management to optimise the medical treatment process,” the municipal government said.

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It said the Communist Party’s local disciplinary commission had also issued warnings to Li Qiang, deputy secretary and party director of the Xian Emergency Centre, and Liu Shunzhi, the director of the Xian Municipal Health Commission – respectively responsible for first aid and vulnerable group treatment.

Xian’s 13 million residents have been in full lockdown for a fortnight and several local officials had already been punished for the city’s handling of its weeks-long outbreak.

Two women in Xian had reported losing a baby after coronavirus-related restrictions delayed their treatment.

In the case at Xian Gaoxin Hospital, a video circulating online showed a woman who was reportedly eight months pregnant sitting outside a hospital with blood running down her legs, after she was refused immediate entry for not having a valid Covid-19 test result.

She was kept waiting for two hours on Saturday night because her test had expired four hours earlier, and subsequently lost her baby, her niece said in a post on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

The post gained millions of views but could not be accessed on Wednesday morning. All the posts published by the niece’s account appear to have been scrubbed and messages to the account went unanswered.

In response to a claim that the niece’s post had been censored by Weibo, the platform said the account holder had deleted the content herself.

Before the punishments were announced, Chinese news portal City Link quoted an unnamed staff member from Xian Gaoxin Hospital as saying “we have done what we are supposed to do”.

The hospital said it could not give further details until it received direction from the authorities.

The northwestern city has adapted its Covid-19 rules since the incident, saying that hospitals should provide “green lanes” to pregnant women and patients with critical illnesses. Residential compounds have reportedly started to keep records of pregnant women.

Another woman wrote on Weibo on Wednesday that she was turned away by several hospitals on December 29 when she started bleeding that morning.

She said the first hospital, Shaanxi Provincial People’s Hospital, refused to treat her because she lived in a “closed-loop management area”, which people are banned from leaving. There was a sign at the hospital entrance directing her to Nengkang Hospital, but when she arrived, staff said that only those with higher-risk yellow or red health codes could be admitted, according to her post.

Calls by her husband and police officers to other hospitals, the epidemic command centre and a government hotline went unanswered. By the time she was admitted by New Changan International Maternity Hospital in late afternoon after a Covid-19 test, she had already lost her baby, according to the woman’s post.

A Shaanxi Provincial People’s Hospital general committee member told the Post that she was not aware of the matter, but that the Xian government had ordered the hospital not to admit patients from a closed-loop management area.

She said there were public notices about the hospitals patients from those areas could go to.

Calls to Nengkang Hospital went unanswered.

Xian reported 35 new locally transmitted cases on Wednesday – the lowest daily total since late December – but this number was up to 63 on Thursday. There has been repeated criticism of the local authorities’ handling of pandemic control measures, with complaints of a food shortage and failures of the local health code app, which is needed for travel and entering buildings.

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