China: April 29, 2003

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While the SARS virus has been contained or wiped out in most other nations, China is just starting to go after the problem. China's initial decision to ignore SARS seems to have been largely driven by decisions in the military hospital system. This network of hospitals and military medical personnel is separate from the national and private hospital systems. This is just another aspect of the communist custom of setting up the armed forces as entirely separate institutions (including, in the past, their own farms and factories.) The military hospital system remains separate in every way, including not reporting health statistics to the government. The military got into problems in the 1990s as many officers became more interested in making money with military factories than in maintaining the combat capability of their troops. The factories were taken away, but now the hospitals are causing problems because of  their independence and refusal to confront SARS early on. The military wants to hold on to its hospital system because the medical care is of higher quality than the national health service. And there is also the income from selling medical care, or taking bribes to provide some medical services. 

China has now reported nearly 3200 SARS cases, and 139 dead.  

 

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