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Punishment of doctor sparks outcry

2024-06-20 10:03:01China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

School docks pay of teacher who was late to class due to emergency

Southern Medical University is facing a public backlash after punishing a pediatrics teacher who was late to class because she was treating a patient showing signs of a sudden brain hemorrhage. The university has claimed the punishment was lenient.

Yu Li, a doctor and teacher at the university's First Clinical Medical College, was docked 2,000 yuan ($275) from her May bonus and disqualified from inclusion in the school's annual appraisal of excellent workers after being 29 minutes late for a class on May 10.

Social media erupted after an internal university circular revealed the reason for Yu's tardiness — treating a child experiencing critical medical signs suggestive of a brain hemorrhage. While acknowledging the emergency, the university penalized Yu for failing to immediately inform the department, the circular said.

The college, also known as Nanfang Hospital in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, serves both as an educational institution and a medical facility.

Yu was unable to notify the teaching office due to the urgency of the situation. Another teacher, Feng Wenyan, stepped in to contact Yu and took over the class until Yu arrived at 8:29 am and completed the session.

The circular described Yu's delay as a "teaching error" rather than a "severe teaching accident" due to the special circumstances and the fact that she fulfilled her teaching duties that day.

Public outrage has centered on the perceived injustice of prioritizing administrative rules over patient care. Netizens widely criticized the decision as "coldblooded "and "putting the cart before the horse". Legal experts also raised concerns, suggesting the punishment might violate Yu's right to prioritize saving a life in an emergency.

The university issued a public statement on Sunday, acknowledging the situation and emphasizing its core value of prioritizing life.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told ThePaper.cn that the punishment suggested the school believed Yu made a wrong choice between saving a life and teaching a class.

Legal experts have also questioned the legality of the punishment. Guo Zheng, a lawyer from Beijing Tiantai Law Firm, told Legal Daily that Yu's decision to prioritize emergency medical care over teaching was legitimate and aligned with public order and the spirit of the law. He added that the punishment may have no legal basis.

In a public statement on Sunday, the university acknowledged the situation and said it is reviewing the matter with relevant departments. The university emphasized that it prioritizes saving lives and helping those in need.

According to China National Radio, Yu was scheduled to provide outpatient services on Thursday, but the appointment was canceled, and she had no other appointments planned for this week. It remains unclear if Yu has other assignments.

Liu Xin, a professor at Renmin University of China's School of Public Administration and Policy, criticized the hospital's management approach. He argued that such strict rules, often justified as "enhancing management", treat specialized professionals as laborers rather than valued employees, ultimately diminishing worker loyalty and effort.

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