China / Society

Hospital a refuge for ailing drug users

By Zheng Caixiong and Yao Yao in Zhongshan, Guangdong (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-04 07:55

Free specialized facility spearheading govt effort to expand services to 21 cities in Guangdong

The first hospital on the Chinese mainland that only admits drug-addicted patients is planning to expand to more than 150 beds in 2016, leading a government effort to create similar treatment facilities in all 21 prefecture-level cities in Guangdong province.

Nanqu Hospital, which is affiliated with Zhongshan No 2 People's Hospital, has only 80 beds at the moment, even though it once had more than 140 patients, said Wang Jun, head of the hospital.

"The expansion of the hospital aims to meet the demand from the growing number of drug-addicted patients," Wang said. "Many patients had to stay in the corridors, or sleep on the floor when all of the beds were occupied."

Except for pediatrics and obstetrics, the hospital has all the departments of a major hospital, including an intensive care unit and an operating room. It has treated more than 720 patients since it opened in June 2011.

Most of the patients are diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and other infectious diseases.

"The hospital was built by the government and is managed by the police, but the medical treatment is provided by senior doctors and nurses from Zhongshan No 2 People's Hospital. The treatment is free for the drug addicts," Wang said.

"The patients admitted to the hospital will not be discharged or sent back to drug rehabilitation centers or prison unless their physical condition poses no threat to other inmates," Wang said.

The effort costs the hospital more than 12 million yuan ($1.85 million) annually, he said.

Deng Jianwei, director of drug enforcement at the Guangdong provincial department of public security, said similar hospitals are being built in Guangzhou, Huizhou and Dongguan in Guangdong province.

Deng's department has asked all the 21 prefecture-level cities in Guangdong to build such hospitals for drug-addicted patients in 2016. Those that do not build a facility will not pass their social comprehensive management assessment, which is required for officials seeking promotion.

Guangdong province had registered more than 578,000 drug addicts by mid-December, accounting for about one-sixth of the country's total, Deng said. About 18,000 of them are disabled or have serious diseases, including HIV and other infectious diseases.

A patient with heart disease surnamed Li was sent to Nanqu hospital after falling ill at a local drug rehabilitation center several months ago.

"I am satisfied with the medical treatment and the facilities in the hospital," said Li, who reads books and magazines and plays poker with roommates in his ward every afternoon. "I will be discharged from the hospital in a month."

Construction of the hospital, which currently has 63 patients in its wards, pleased the public, said Tan Pei'an, vice-mayor of Zhongshan and director of the city's public security department.

"Before the hospital was put into service, some drug addicts who were dumped by their families or were discriminated against ... used to use syringe needles and knives to steal and rob in local communities, threatening people's lives and social stability," Tan said.

"Such drug addicts were never afraid of being detained by police at that time," Tan said. "Police dared not detain them due to the health risks they posed both to other detainees and the officers themselves, and police had to quickly release them because they did not know how or where the special suspects were to be sent and placed for punishment."

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