By Benjamin Cost
As much as we’d like to think China’s healthcare system is in need of urgent reform, its situation still pales in comparison with what it’s like inside North Korean hospitals. A series of images on life inside a North Korean hospital, where beer bottles are used for IV drips, have been making the rounds on the Chinese internet.
Barbara Demick, LA Times correspondent and author of the book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea wrote on North Korean healthcare in 2010:
In keeping with its socialist ideology, North Korea once boasted of providing free, universal healthcare with a network of more than 44,000 general practitioners who would even make house calls. Although hospitalization remains free, the facilities are unsanitary and have no food, bandages or medicine.
“Hospitals in North Korea no longer have medicines. Medical personnel don’t receive any, or if they do, they sell them in the market,” said a 47-year-old man interviewed by Amnesty International who also described paying a doctor treating his son for tuberculosis with 10 packs of cigarettes.
Others told of providing bottles of liquor or cooked meals to the doctors, who themselves were receiving almost no salary.
The Amnesty International report was consistent with the description of North Korea in Times stories on the east coast city of Chongjin in 2005. A doctor, Kim Ji Eun, said then that her patients had to bring their own bottles if they needed intravenous fluid. Beer bottles were preferred.
“If they would bring in one beer bottle, they’d get one IV. If they’d bring two bottles, they would get two,” said the doctor, who defected in 1998 and lives in South Korea.
Hopefully now with Kim Jong-un at the helm, the Hermit Kingdom will finally see some much needed drastic healthcare reform.
Photos from Yahoo China.