Chinese authorities said Thursday they have punished officials after footage went viral of an eight-month pregnant woman miscarrying in the locked-down city of Xi’an when a hospital refused her entry without a Covid test.
The historic city of 13 million has been under strict home confinement for two weeks as Beijing sticks to its “zero-Covid” strategy to stamp out all virus cases.
The distressing incident was detailed in a social media post by the woman’s niece on Jan 1, which included photos and video of the woman sitting on a plastic stool outside the hospital surrounded by a pool of blood.
The post was later removed but first gathered hundreds of millions of views and sparked widespread anger online about the hardships some Xi’an residents are facing in the locked-down megacity.
The city government said in a statement Thursday the incident at Xi’an Gaoxin Hospital had aroused “widespread concern and caused a bad social impact” and the local health bureau was investigating.
The hospital’s general manager had been suspended and “relevant responsible persons” at the outpatient department were removed from their posts, it said.
The city’s health commission had also instructed the hospital to “apologise to the public, actively reflect, and sort out hidden dangers in the work process”.
“A warning” was given to the head of Xi’an’s emergency response team and the health commission director, the statement said, adding that they did not “meet the requirements for the treatment of special populations”.
Posted on the city government’s official WeChat account, the statement racked up more than 290 million views within hours of being published – illustrating the huge interest the case has generated within China.
According to the Jan 1 post that went viral, staff refused to admit the heavily pregnant woman for two hours because she did not have a negative Covid test within the last 48 hours.
Her niece wrote that she did hold a negative test result, but that it had expired by just a few hours.
AFP could not verify the post, and calls to the hospital went unanswered.
On Wednesday, officials told reporters that Xi’an was opening “green channels” to provide quick access to medical services to certain groups – such as pregnant women and patients with critical illnesses – without referencing this case.
Coronavirus cases in China remain very low by international standards. But in recent weeks, infections have reached a high not seen since March 2020.
There were 189 cases reported Thursday, including 63 in Xi’an.