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Men’s Hospitals

Secret Sorrows

Private hospitals for men will remain a lucrative business while China’s public hospitals fail to meet market demands

By NewsChina Updated Feb.1

On April 30, 2015, Lu Feng, then 28, finally made up his mind to have his foreskin removed after struggling with premature ejaculation for many years. That morning he did an Internet search via Baidu, China’s largest search engine, using the keyword for his condition and, within seconds, the names of dozens of hospitals popped up. 

He clicked the link of the Urology Hospital of Jinan Kowloon in Shandong Province and began to chat with a customer service representative who soon arranged an appointment with a senior specialist. That same afternoon, Lu went to the hospital, passing on his way a number of advertisements for the hospital on hoardings, billboards and even on the bus. When he got there he was promptly guided by a nurse to meet the specialist.  

After hearing Lu’s descriptions and giving him a brief checkup, the specialist put on a stern look, informing Lu that he had to undergo an operation as soon as possible. Taken off guard, Lu, with little understanding of medical issues, was led to the operating room. 

After administering a local anesthetic, the specialist lowered his head to carefully inspect Lu’s private parts. He told Lu that he was showing resistance to venous return (the flow of blood back to the heart) that would affect reproduction and asked him to undergo another procedure. By this point the surgeon had begun making incisions and on seeing the cuts, Lu felt he had no choice but to agree. The specialist, however, was now saying that the nervous system in Lu’s genitals was very sensitive, which is highly likely to cause premature ejaculation. He recommended yet another operation to fix the problem forever, offering Lu a discount for performing all three procedures together.  

After a moment’s pause, Lu consented, and underwent the operations at a total cost of 8,300 yuan (US$1,200). Lu thought that as long as his condition was cured, he would not care too much about the cost. The procedures, however, failed to cure his premature ejaculation and, to make matters worse, Lu became increasingly impotent. 

After receiving checkups at public hospitals afterwards, Lu was told that public hospitals do not provide such operations, adding that the International Society of Sexual Medicine had warned in its diagnosis and treatment guidelines for premature ejaculation in 2014 that the procedures that Lu had undergone are highly likely to lead to the permanent loss of sexual function. 

Lu, depressed and angry, is often reduced to weeping deep into the night. “You cannot imagine how much pressure [due to sexual dysfunction] I am dealing with, and if it continues, I will probably end up killing the doctor,” he told NewsChina. 

People hold up slogans to promote men’s health in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, October 28, 2014, which was also China’s 15th Male Health Day / Photo by IC


Lu’s case is not unusual. When discussing their cases in online chatrooms, victims of men’s hospitals use terms like “kill doctors” and “revenge” much more than they use words like “cure.”  

Several patients told NewsChina that the seemingly considerate and confidential service at private hospitals is one of the major factors that leads them to fall prey to [medical scams/unscrupulous doctors]. When prospective patients start asking questions on the online messaging tools on the websites of hospitals specializing in men’s health, they get an almost immediate response. When handling inquiries, customer service staff do not ask about the patients’ private details outright, instead informing them that the hospital has multiple departments and all the cutting-edge facilities needed to cure the condition or alleviate pain. 

The moment a patient arrives at a private men’s hospital, a guide will show up to welcome and personally take him to the consulting room, cashier desk and operating room. Unlike crowded public hospitals where patients have to line up for a long time simply to secure an appointment, patients can expect a VIP experience at these men’s hospitals. 

The work of the guide, however, is actually to keep patients from getting their checkup results and medical records. Doctors keep the patients’ records and test reports to prevent patients from learning their real conditions in a bid to prescribe more medications and procedures or to withhold evidence that could possibly be used in medical disputes. Many patients told NewsChina that they lost their lawsuits simply because they did not gather enough evidence to sue the hospitals. 

When they came to the hospital for their after-surgery check-up, virtually all patients are told that their condition is not good. The hospitals will tell patients to take extra medicine to aid their recovery while the particularly unscrupulous hospitals even ask patients to undergo further procedures for profit-based rather than medical reasons. Hoping for a speedy recovery, most patients will consent.  

In November 2015, when then 26-year-old Wang Meng returned to the Ouya Male Hospital in Jinan, Shandong Province, for a review after surgery, he was told his surgery wounds were in danger of becoming infected and he should receive further treatment immediately. Wang agreed because his wounds were still hurting and he hoped for a quick recovery. After a course of treatment that lasted a month and a half, he was lucky to recover, but at a cost of over 100,000 yuan (US$14,850). 

Because of his embarrassment, he never told his family about the surgery and its cost. Only just starting out in his career, Wang had to face the financial burden alone. He had to apply for a bank loan and several credit cards to survive. 

Ad banners for private hospitals hanging at Jinan Long-distance Bus Station in Shandong Province, May 8, 2016 / Photo by IC


The surgeon who treated Wang Meng now works for a men’s hospital in Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. He told NewsChina that the business model of any men’s hospital in China is the pursuit of “low risk, high returns” and, as a result, hospitals have to make careful calculations on how to establish specialist departments and which kinds of medicines and treatment to provide. 

He told our reporter that private hospitals, unlike comprehensive public hospitals, prioritize departments with the highest profits, and lucrative surgical procedures will always be the first recommendations. He attributed the popularity of private men’s hospitals to their niche segmentation of the market because public hospitals rarely open men’s departments, meaning patients’ only choice is to see a doctor at the department of urology or dermatology. Private hospitals perfectly fill the gap.
He added that surgical procedures are always the preference at men’s hospitals rather than medication. When medicines are prescribed, expensive imported brands are always recommended over domestic ones because the prices of imported medicines do not come under the regulations of health authorities.  

“Doctors at private men’s hospitals learn how to make a quick buck themselves after a short period of work, even without any special training in making sales,” the surgeon said, adding that he will soon resign from the men’s hospital and start a new business. 

In early 2016, Chen Jianguo, former dean of Yulin City Maternity Hospital in western China’s Shaanxi Province publicly reported the illegal acts of several private hospitals in the city, including setting up departments without permission, practicing without license and creating false records.  

“The bottom line of medical institutions is to help the public, but some private hospitals care only about money,” he said. “To make matters worse, it is really disappointing that to date no government bodies responded to these problems after my reporting their names.” 

According to Jiang Hui, director of the department of men’s health at the Chinese Medical Association, the treatment of men’s issues is relatively poor in China compared to gynecological provision. “In China, gynecology has been developed for more than 100 years, and the subject of andrology [treatment of conditions specific to men] was only established more than 20 years ago and has a lot of catching up to do.”  

Jiang said that nowadays in China an increasing number of people visit hospitals for treatment of men’s issues because they have more money to spend and they want to pursue a better quality of life.  

“Men’s issues are closely connected with quality of life. When people do not have enough to eat, nobody cares about impotence,” he said. “China has recently allowed each couple to have two children and infertility has become an urgent problem for some families.” 

Statistics show that demand for treatment of men’s conditions in China has been on the rise in recent years. At Peking University Third Hospital, the number of outpatients in 2015 hit 120,000, up from 80,000 in 2012. In the first half of 2016, the hospital performed 1,244 operations to treat male conditions, a 14 percent year-on-year increase. 

Jiang said China is home to only 3,000 doctors who specialize in male issues, adding that over the years the Chinese Medical Association has been advocating to make men’s health an independent medical category, but China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), China’s top health authority, has failed to take any action to date. 

“The NHFPC is responsible for setting up diagnosis topics, and the Ministry of Education is in charge of establishing academic topics,” he said. “It is very difficult for policymakers to strike a balance between academics and practitioners.” 

As for the bosses of China’s vast number of private men’s hospitals, even though the official numbers are unclear, the specialization will remain a good money-spinner for a long time to come.