2017-03-20 11:58:10

Standing over the operating table and midway through a surgery to treat sexual dysfunction, the surgeon for 78-year-old Rong Diedie’s operation started to renegotiate his price.

Local outlet Wuhan Evening News reported that Rong paid the initial price of 2,770 yuan ($400) before the surgery, another 1,370 yuan after the surgeon announced that it was “complicated,” another 2,400 yuan for a second procedure, and only then, after spending more than 6,700 yuan, did he realize something was wrong and decide to discontinue his treatment.

The incident happened at Wuhan Shijihuazhong Hospital, in central China’s Hubei province. A manager at the hospital surnamed Peng told Wuhan Evening News that the surgeon has since been fired, and that the hospital has fired several doctors involved in similar cases. The report also stated that the hospital was under investigation by the provincial health and family planning commission. Neither the hospital nor the commission could be reached for comment on Monday. 

The elderly Rong had responded to a mid-February radio advertisement claiming that the elective surgery was quick and affordable, at just a few hundred yuan. He wasn’t the only patient to fall for the scam either: After hearing Rong’s story, a man surnamed Xiong came forward to tell Wuhan Evening News that he had found himself in the same position.

“I was told that 200 yuan was just the starting price a procedure that was less effective than Korean-style or European-style surgery, which cost more than 400 yuan and 800 yuan, respectively,” said Xiong.

The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, stated in May 2016 that it had received a large number of complaints about medical price gouging, usually involving privately run hospitals. Raising prices mid-treatment, reneging on agreed-upon fees, and excessive treatment for minor illnesses were among the complaints.

Despite their tendency to draw criticism from both officials and the public, related cases continue to make headlines from time to time. In early 2016, three hospitals in Hohhot, capital of northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, were suspended after similar cases. In one, for example, a patient surnamed Suo was forced to pay an additional 7,000 yuan mid-surgery.

Recorded at one of the Hohhot hospitals, a video in which a patient lying on an operating table and a doctor start hitting each other after the latter allegedly tried to raise his price mid-surgery was circulated online.

Last March, a woman who couldn’t come up with the mid-surgery price hike was forced to sign a bill acknowledging her debt at a hospital in central China’s Henan province.

Such incidents and otherquestional business practices have slowly eroded people’s trust in private health care institutions. In an online survey conducted last year, nearly 70 percent of participants said they didn’t trust privately run hospitals.

Editor: August Rick.

(Header image: A hospital employee prepares for a surgery in Shanghai, Aug. 13, 2014. Yong Kai for Sixth Tone)