Top Beijing Hospital Cuts Doctor Pay During Health Care Crackdown

(Bloomberg) — One of China’s top eye hospitals has cut doctors’ pay for the month of August, prompting speculation on social media that Beijing’s crackdown on corruption in the health care sector is starting to weigh on ordinary workers’ income.

Doctors at Beijing Tongren Hospital discovered that their performance-based salaries and late-shift allowances had been halved last month, local business newspaper The Economic Observer reported earlier this week, citing several physicians working at the renowned medical center, which specializes in treating eye, ear, nose and throat diseases.

Performance-based salaries account for nearly two-thirds of doctor’s monthly pay and such reductions are rarely seen, the newspaper said, citing one of the doctors working at the hospital.

The story, which has since been removed from the internet, sparked robust discussion on social media around how Beijing’s health care crackdown might have begun to impact the pay checks of ordinary health care workers. China’s disciplinary watchdog and health authorities launched a sweeping campaign to weed out corruption and bribery in July, vowing to go after everyone from hospitals and officials to drug and medical-device makers.

Read more: China’s Sweeping Health Graft Campaign Goes Beyond Hospitals

Tongren Hospital didn’t respond to a request for comment from Bloomberg. 

Some doctors interviewed by The Economic Observer said the hospital’s senior managers promised them that any performance-based salaries cut will eventually be paid back in January.

Still, the news has angered many, who feel the hospital’s decision means rank-and-file employees are bearing the brunt of the government’s anti-graft campaign.

A neurologist based in the western Chinese province of Sichuan called it a blatant breach of China’s labor law. “If you really think there’s corruption, you should get to the bottom of it. What’s the point of reducing an ordinary employee’s salary,” he wrote on his Weibo account.

The move has also worried doctors that other hospitals in China could follow suit, said Hu Xijin, former editor of the state-backed Global Times newspaper, writing on his Weibo account earlier this week. 

“It’s a hard journey for someone to grow into a veteran doctor. That makes their moderately high income justifiable,” Hu said. “Widespread pay cuts in the health care system should be a major no-no.”

–With assistance from Jinshan Hong.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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