Hospital bills 'probably led to H1N1 boy's death'

11:19, December 11, 2009      

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GUANGZHOU: A 3-year-old boy found dead and abandoned in a dry ditch in Guangzhou on Wednesday had earlier been treated for serious complications from H1N1 flu but was discharged from the hospital upon repeated requests from his family.

The boy's family has gone into hiding, but some familiar with the case say that the family could not afford the boy's hospital treatments.

The boy, surnamed Zhou who was born and lived in Xinshi town, Baiyun district, Guangzhou, started to show flu symptoms on Nov 26 and was admitted into the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said Xiong Yuanda, spokesman for the health bureau of Guangzhou, yesterday.

His condition worsened on Dec 3, when the hospital reported him as an H1N1 flu patient and transferred him to the Guangzhou Children's Hospital.

Zhou was diagnosed with H1N1 flu, acute bronchial pneumonia, respiratory failure and thrombocytopenic purpura, an immune system disease, at the second hospital.

Ten members of his family, however, requested twice on Dec 6 that he be discharged, despite repeated warnings from the hospital staff about the boy's serious condition, said Gong Sitang, vice-president of the Guangzhou Children's Hospital.

Zhou was tested for the H1N1 flu virus that day, but the test result came back negative, Gong said. According to the country's guideline, only those patients testing positive for H1N1 are subject to forced quarantine.

After the boy was discharged, the officials from the center for disease control and prevention of the Baiyun district called his family about his condition, but the family was unwilling to cooperate, saying only that the boy was going back to his hometown. Zhou's parents come from Guigang of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Zhou's parents may have insisted on having him discharged for financial reasons, Xiong said.

Zhou's thrombocytopenic purpura disease broke out three months ago and he had been treated with a special hormone for two months. The boy would have needed long-term or possibly lifetime treatment for the disease, doctors said.

His four days at the children's hospital cost 19,307 yuan and the family had only paid 13,600 yuan when they left.

Gong said his hospital had never pressed Zhou's family to pay the rest.

The hospital did its duty, but more efforts are needed from the entire society to help the financially disadvantaged patients, especially those from outside the city, Xiong said.

The city government of Guangzhou set aside some money days ago for hospitals to assist poor patients from outside the city, but the maximum help for a patient is 7,000 yuan, he said.

Civil affairs authorities have put in place programs for helping ill low-income people, including vagrants and those injured in traffic accidents.

The ditch where the boy and his medical records were found, as well as his home in Baiyun district, were sterilized, but the boy's parents have remained out of contact.

Baiyun district police are investigating the case.

Source: China Daily/Agencies
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