Chinese renowned respiratory scientist Zhong Nanshan receives an interview with Xinhua in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, Jan. 28, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
Chinese netizens expressed support for revered respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan after media reported that the registration fee for his diagnosis costs as much as 1,200 yuan ($169), stressing his popularity in the country where Zhong has led the national team of medical experts twice in fighting virus invasion, including the COVID-19 epidemic.
Zhong, 84, head of China's COVID-19 expert team, usually receives patients every Thursday afternoon at the First Affiliate Hospital of the Guangzhou Medical University, in Guangdong Province.
The Global Times on Saturday learned on the hospital's WeChat account that the registration fee for Zhong's diagnosis is 1,200 yuan per patient. But the number of reservation slots for Zhong's diagnosis on April 9 was zero, meaning he will not receive patients that day.
The working staff of the hospital said that Zhong's diagnosis has been suspended during the COVID-19 epidemic as he and his team are devoted to combating the epidemic, media reported Saturday.
He will resume outpatient consultations after the epidemic, the staff member said.
The price for Zhong's diagnosis triggered heated discussions on Chinese social media platforms, with some questioning if it conforms to national standards or makes poorer people more difficult to access top physicians.
Many netizens support the pricing, saying Zhong deserves the price, and the steep price can prevent people with minor cases like a cold, which is a waste of time.
The Global Times learned that the registration fee in Chinese hospitals is normally 10 yuan but there is no compulsory national standard. Some other hospitals also charged 1,200 yuan for registration with top doctors. The figure may range from 10 to more than 1,000 yuan depending on the policy of local bureaus, the level of different hospitals and doctors.
Netizens called for more respect to medical professionals like Zhong who fought at the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic. They are far more valuable than pop stars whose concert ticket prices could be several times Zhong's registration fee, netizens said.
"Zhong has abundant experience and knowledge. He can timely identify the cause of diseases in patients. The time and money he saves for the patient are worth more than 1,200 yuan," a netizen said on Sina Weibo.
"Patients will flood to Zhong if the registration fee for his diagnosis is low. He is already 84, he would not be able to handle such a demand," another said.
Zhong told media in 2018 that he only received patients with difficult and complicated diseases. Aside from outpatient services, he would also help other doctors treat difficult cases.
Zhong and his team have been working on the anti-epidemic frontline for more than two months. Some members of his team took charge of over 20 beds in the intensive care unit at the Wuhan Union Hospital and had treated 68 critical COVID-19 patients as of March 13, media reported.
They have also attended telemedicines for COVID-19 patients across the country and closely communicated with foreign experts, including those from the US, Germany and South Korea, to exchange experiences on treating COVID-19 patients.
During the outbreak of SARS in 2003, Zhong's team was the first in the world to formulate a set of standards for clinical diagnosis of SARS. Guangdong Province, one the hardest hit areas during the SARS outbreak where Zhong works, reportedly holds the highest cure rate and the lowest mortality rate in the world.