Two hospitals in China have caused 14 patients to be infected with HIV and hepatitis B in two separate cases due to a lack of adherence to proper medical procedures.

China’s healthcare system has come under public scrutiny with the prominent rise in cases involving bribes and the use of unapproved treatments in the recent years, and these two incidents once again highlight the urgency of the issue to be resolved.

Nine kidney patients infected with hepatitis B

Nine patients undergoing kidney dialysis at the Qingdao Chengyang People’s Hospital in Shandong province were inadvertently infected with hepatitis B.

“The consequence was severe and the impact terrible. It exposed the bad implementation by the hospital and its medical staff of relevant requirements to strengthen the management of haemodialysis treatment,” said a statement released by the district government.

The infection had occurred last year, but information was suppressed by hospital managers as a ratings inspection of the medical centre was being carried out, said an anonymous official at the National Health and Family Planning Commission. News only reached the higher authorities this January.

Three senior managers and a nurse have been suspended, and the Shandong provincial health administration has ordered urgent checks on all medical institutions which provide haemodialysis treatment.

This is not an isolated case – last year, 26 were infected with hepatitis C through haemodialysis treatment in Zhanan County Hospital, Shanxi province.

Five infected with HIV

In a separate case, what provincial authorities have described as a "severe violation of procedure", a technician from the top-tier Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine reused a tube that had been used in the treatment of an individual infected with HIV, infecting five other patients with the virus in the process.

Such news sparked outrage among social media users in China. "A provincial-level hospital doesn't follow protocols, who can we trust as average citizens?!" wrote one person on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

"This case is exposed, but what about cases that we don't know? There must have been many more!" wrote another.

According to provincial health officials, they had been alerted to the situation on 26 January, and those who had been affected would receive treatment and compensation. However, no details were given, such as the number of other patients that might have been exposed, what the infected patients had been treated for, nor when the infections had occurred.

Six staff members, including the technician responsible and the hospital’s dean, have been removed from their positions. Previously, a group of 19 people sued a hospital in Heilongjiang over transfusions from which they contracted HIV in 2006.

Actual number of HIV cases in China may be much higher

China faces a rising number of HIV cases after a huge incident in the 1990s, when farmers in Henan province who sold their blood were infected with HIV due to poor standards of safety.

It is still not clear how widespread the infection is – in 2001, it was announced that between 30,000 and 50,000 people had been infected, but other officials have suggested that the actual figure is much higher. Zhejiang is no exception– with over 4,000 new cases of HIV infection reported last year (a 5.7% increase from 2015), and more than 27,000 cases recorded as of last October.

The Chinese government is working to combat AIDS with its five-year plan on AIDS prevention, which includes measures prohibiting needle-sharing as well as illegal blood donations and transfusions. MIMS

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