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Cutting Off Scalpers
 NO. 8 FEBRUARY 25, 2016


A video showing an angry young woman who failed to get a registration ticket for her paralyzed mother after lining up for a whole day at a hospital in Beijing has gone viral online. In the video, the woman railed at the security guards of the hospital for turning a blind eye to scalpers who had snatched up a ticket she needed and were asking for 4,500 yuan ($684.9) for it. Had she been able to buy the ticket herself, it would have cost 300 yuan ($45.7).

In China, patients are required to buy a ticket in order to see a doctor, the price of which depends on the service required. Tickets to see senior doctors at renowned hospitals are particularly difficult to get.

The video became popular online on January 25 and has since aroused intense attention and sympathy from netizens. The hospital in question published a notice on the next day, saying that it arranged another expert for the woman's mother after she called the police. The notice stated that there was no evidence indicating that the hospital's security guards had been in cahoots with the ticket scalpers.

Beijing police announced on January 28 that it had arrested seven ticket scalpers at the hospital. The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau promised to work closely with the health department to launch a crackdown on the illicit activity in order to make it easier to access medical treatment.

Possible solutions

Editorial (The Beijing News ): A shortage of quality medical services and their uneven distribution between different regions have contributed to the issue of rampant ticket scalping at hospitals. According to statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 80 percent of medical services in China are provided in big cities. First-tier cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou have become the country's medical centers.

As the shortage of medical services cannot be solved immediately, medical reform should be stepped up in order to root out the problem.

In some foreign countries, premium hospitals and doctors are also in short supply. It's common for patients to wait for weeks or months in order to see a doctor. Nevertheless, they are plagued by fewer scalpers. One important reason is that in many foreign countries, hospitals observe a strict hierarchical order. Patients with minor ailments are treated at small hospitals, while those with major diseases are allowed to register at a larger hospital through the recommendation of a lower-level medical institution.

Although the Chinese Government has been trying to introduce such a system for years, the result has been unsatisfactory. Even patients with minor illnesses are allowed to register at big hospitals.

In addition, the health department has encouraged public hospital doctors to work at private medical institutions in a bid to alleviate the strain in supply. However, should they choose to work part-time at other hospitals, their promotion and salary prospects at their hospital of origin might be affected.

Furthermore, the prevalence of scalpers is due to the loose management of hospitals. Take, for example, the incident in question. If patients and journalists can spot the scalpers, why can't the hospital staff do the same? That is presumably because security guards, hospital workers and the scalpers had collaborated with each other. If hospitals as well as the public security department can work together to crack down on the lawbreakers, they will have nowhere to hide.

Zhang Tianwei (Beijing Youth Daily ): Ticket scalpers are able to inflate the prices because registration tickets, especially those for expert doctors, are hard to get. The distribution of such tickets has always been problematic. In reality, hospital registration tickets are bought by those willing to pay scalpers, people who have connections with the hospital, those who spend time lining up for a ticket, and individuals who are proficient at using online reservation platforms.

Nevertheless, medical resources are special commodities. If only those who can afford high-prices are able to access them, most low-income groups will be deprived of premium medical services. What is hard to accept is that inequality is the real motive behind the unfair distribution of medical services.

Therefore, increasing the amount of services should be an adequate solution to the problem. When it is no longer difficult to obtain an appointment with an expert, and patients don't need to line up throughout the night for a ticket, scalpers will have lost their means to make money. However, it will take a long time for this to be realized. The most practical solution would be to divert affluent patients away from public hospitals by creating additional private medical institutions. In the meantime, medical services at public ones should be increased by enabling low-price treatment to lower-income earners.

Strict supervision

Wu Weiqiang (Hangzhou Daily ): Currently, a real name registration system is used in order to receive a doctor's appointment at hospitals. Therefore, the patient who meets the doctor should be the same as the one who registers for the number. If the process were controlled as strictly as it should, there would have been no scalping problem.

The prevalence of scalpers indicates that there are loopholes in the process. Workers at the registration office as well as doctors can provide leeway to bend the rules.

I don't want to dwell upon the shortage of medical services or their imbalanced distribution. The fact that a profession designed to treat illnesses and save lives has been turned into a money-making business has shocked me. In addition, allowing topnotch experts to work part-time at private hospitals contributes to the growing scarcity of registration tickets for experts in public hospitals.

In addition to making the registration process more transparent and fair as well as punishing wrongdoers in accordance with the law, hospitals should also uphold a clear conscience and follow moral decency.

Qin Chuan (People's Daily ): The problem of rampant ticket scalping in hospitals deserves attention and needs to be solved urgently.

Why are scalpers so competent at getting a ticket with ease? Although there are some who buy their ticket by getting up early to queue up in front of the registration office, there are still those who connive with hospital staff to get tickets. If those workers' nefarious activities are left unpunished, the scalpers will never disappear.

The hospital's management should intervene and work with relevant government departments to crack down on such malpractices in order to create a fair environment for patients.

Ticket scalpers have seriously harmed the healthy development of hospitals. They are able to make high profits while only being subject to light punishment. Although ticket scalping meets the conditions of illegal business operations in the Criminal Law and should be punished accordingly, in many places, the scalpers only pay fines or are detained for several days when caught. As a result, a number of those criminals are willing to take the risks to achieve fat profits. The problem can hardly be removed without dealing out harsher punishments.

For patients who are already shouldering expensive medical fees, having to deal with scalpers just adds to their burden.

Everyone should think about how to solve this dilemma and enable easier access to medical treatment for citizens. Otherwise, the strained relationship between doctors and patients in China will never be alleviated.

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan

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