Gauge the size of their wallet.
Another piece in The Guardian from Jonathan Watts about China, this time the medical system. This is the heart of the problem
China’s healthcare system – once almost free – is now one of the most market-oriented in the world. Since market reforms in 1979 the government’s share of healthcare costs has declined from 54% to 17%. According to the World Health Organisation China ranks 188 out of 191 nations in terms of the equality of financial access to health.
The article goes on to say
With little support from state coffers, medical institutions have to find new ways to generate income. Drug sales account for half of hospital incomes, which has led to widespread accusations of overprescribing.
I needed to see a doctor on one occasion which meant, because I don’t think there are an GPs in China, a trip to the local hospital. (This was when I was in Beijing.) My translator asked the hospital staff not to overcharge me because I was foreign (’cos foreigners are rich, right?). I think they did give me at least one unnecessary test, though, which merely confirmed that I wasn’t pregnant.
That particular hospital was a shabby affair. When one of the teachers who was at the school the year after I left broke her ribs trying to climb over the gate at 2am one Sunday, she had to spend the night there before being moved to an international hospital in Chaoyang. Moreover, the school co-ordinator who was “in charge” of us at the time had to stay with her because there weren’t a sufficient number of nurses on duty. (Probably none.) International hospitals are the best, but they are, of course, also the most expensive. The recommendation that we got when I first came to China was to head for Hong Kong or Japan if you needed treatment for something serious.
Given the state of the medical system in China, it’s little wonder that the mob might target hospitals for failing to provide health care. I wonder if Chinese doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath or something like it. There are obviously occasions when you’d hope humanity would prevail over economics, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
[20.08.13. I note (cynically, of course) that like lawyers in China, doctors are more likely to swear allegiance to the Party than they are to upholding the standards of their profession. In addition, GSK has recently been at the centre of a scandal that is probably common to all pharmaceuticals companies operating in China. 14.08.14. That came to a head just recently with the conviction of a British investigator and his (American-)Chinese wife who, it seems, trod on the toes of someone rather important.]