Beijing’s poor visit illegal clinics

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing
18 November 2009

In a village on the outskirts of Beijing, a red cross and the word “clinic” has been hand painted on a sign hanging outside a backstreet shop.

Inside there is a table and desk, a bed with a dirty pink sheet on it, and a set of shelves covered with boxes and bottles of medicine.

People go there to seek medical advice, admits the man in charge, although he refuses to show the BBC the clinic’s permission to practise.
Dressed in a black jacket and jeans, he does not look like a doctor and turns away when asked about his own medical training.

Beijing city government admits that the Chinese capital has a problem with illegal medical centres – known as black clinics.

It closed down more than 3,300 of these unregulated and sometimes dangerous clinics last year alone.

‘Not safe’

They are set up to serve the capital’s poorest people, many of them migrant workers who have come to Beijing to find a job.

Most are on the outskirts of the city, often near large construction sites that can employ hundreds of migrant workers.

They offer a cheaper alternative to the city’s government-backed clinics and hospitals.

But there are problems – they are often dirty, staffed by people with no formal medical qualifications and it is not clear where they buy their medicine and equipment.

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