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Xi'an residents voice concerns on social media after govt shuts two hospitals

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BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Residents of a Chinese city locked down for three weeks are taking to social media to voice concerns about health risks after two hospitals were closed because their strict enforcement of virus rules led to patient deaths.

Dr Guo Shuzhong of Xi'an International Medical Centre Hospital, wrote Thursday (Jan 13) on his verified Weibo account that he'd "never felt so anxious" because 117 patients - mostly children - had ear surgery delayed, raising the risk of infection that could lead to permanent damage.

He said Friday he'd been given permission to finish the procedures. Dr Guo hasn't responded to attempts by Bloomberg News to contact him via China's Twitter-like Weibo platform.

A woman who said she was due to give birth soon at the same facility said she was worried about finding a new hospital so late in her pregnancy.

"Where should I go?" she posted Thursday on Weibo.

Earlier this month, a woman's miscarriage outside Xi'an Gaoxin Hospital, which denied her entry over an expired Covid test, caused uproar in the Asian nation.

Separately, the father of one Xi'an resident died after initially being denied care at the centre where Dr Guo practices.

Authorities in Xi'an, a central city of 13 million people, on Thursday ordered both facilities to close for three months to undergo a "rectification" process.

Xi'an health authorities issued guidelines later Thursday urging the two hospitals to make arrangements for patients to receive treatment elsewhere. Critically ill patients will be allowed to remain in the facilities.

The episode underscores a key challenge facing the government of President Xi Jinping, whose officials are struggling to strike a balance between enforcing policies including Covid Zero to the satisfaction of their bosses and making sure the public's needs are met.

Last month, Xi'an punished 26 people for failing in their virus-control responsibilities.

China is determined for its officials to have a firm grip on the nation of 1.4 billion people as the Winter Olympics approaches.

The event running Feb 4-20 will be held in a bubble that covers part of Beijing and neighbouring Hebei province.

Mr Xi has promised his nation will hold a "simple, safe and splendid" games.

After the woman's miscarriage, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan tried to clear up any confusion for health officials across the country, telling them they "must not turn away patients under any excuse".

Despite China's strict pursuit of zero Covid cases, the nation continues to deal with flareups including in the port cities of Dalian and Tianjin - where the Omicron variant has appeared - and in the central province of Henan.
 

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