The Los Angeles Times reports that China created a new system in 2016 designed to track more than 400,000 diseases and verify the validity of patient records. While it sounds like a step forward, instead the program immediately fell to pieces. Though seemingly unnecessary, the central mechanism that enables the care record system, which was developed for the Yangtze River Delta and joined the rest of China last fall, let 39 million people slip through the cracks and didn’t even log the thousands of suspected cases of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) that came to China via that same destination. At the time of the rollout, a different scheme was hastily put in place for controlling the severity of any future epidemics as well. Though thousands of dead people have already been buried, there’s a strong chance a little virus here and there will spread, and the system is already showing signs of slowing down.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, despite the otherwise seemingly lagging health system, a huge mental health clinic is set to open next month in Hangzhou. The 370,000-square-foot facility will have the capacity to treat 600 patients at a time. “We will provide counseling and care for those living in Hangzhou and those from around the country,” the state-run China Daily quoted the clinic’s doctor as saying, adding that it “is made to take care of one patient at a time, and is the first of its kind in China.” Because both the walls and ceilings inside the facility are fireproof, it also offers private rooms for those who can afford it. So what’s not to like?
For one, the government has not made it clear when or if it’s going to build additional centres for mental health services. And the clinic will likely be obsolete before many of the 600 patients have seen any mental health treatment at all. Additionally, even if the mental health clinic were to be built, it wouldn’t have many of the most critical features of modern medicine: automated beds that follow the patient even as they turn, electronic health records that enable the staff to know when a patient is changing from a first to a second depression, and multiple incubators that can deliver critical immunosuppressant drugs to patients waiting for their lung transplant. This, surely, is why Hui Tao, a physician with 28 years experience, says he’s decided not to work in the new clinic.
“We put too much expectations on this,” said Dr. Tao. “I think we can get far more out of human innovation and the support of our patients with non-surgical methods and non-medical procedures.”
For now, hospitals around China — including the Hangzhou and Beijing facilities — are working overtime to hold new infections down. Hoping to prevent the spread of a disease that once nearly killed up to 100,000 people a year at a time, they are doing all they can to give the worried Chinese public peace of mind, despite the H1N1 epidemic that killed far fewer Chinese in 2009, and is (from a computational perspective) less deadly than SARS, even when death rates are scaled by one million.
Even within the mental health sector, the way forward, it seems, is to assume a lot more manpower and bank on the country’s vast pool of experts. From the Los Angeles Times: