China, at Your Services
Every night just a few hours after closing, patients and their families and friends queue in front of the Xiangya Hospital in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. It’s considered one of the best hospitals in the city, established by a Yale-educated American doctor in 1906. Yang Yan had been waiting at the door with her husband and his mother since 2 a.m. They had to be in line early to win the race to the clerks’ windows, where they could get tickets for her husband and mother-in-law, who needed to see doctors for their ailments. The hours of waiting outside in the November drizzle wore down Yang Yan’s stamina, and the crush of hundreds of bodies pressing her into the locked glass doors began to hurt. At 5:30 a.m., the guards inside the entrance unlocked the doors and stood aside. Hundreds of people stormed the lobby, running as fast as they could to the ticket windows. Young, healthy men also competed for the coveted “passports” to see a doctor; it was their job. These gangs would always be the first at the windows to obtain as many of the precious few tickets as they could, and then force patients to buy the tickets for about US$40 each. Their customers were the ill, the handicapped, the indigent, and the elderly.1
Yang Yan was not fast enough, nor strong enough to keep up with the crowd. Someone shoved her from behind ...