Wang Dongjin is surgeon at Nanjing Gulou Hospital. A heart specialist, Wang has practiced for over 30 years. He has conducted tens of thousands of operations with a success rate of 99 percent. In 2017 alone, he performed 2,989 operations, 407 involving the great arteries. His ability for precision in high-pressure situations has earned him the monicker “the bomb disposal expert” of cardiothoracic surgery.
Wang usually arrives at 8am. He’ll often work for 17 hours, leaving after midnight.
Operations, research, lectures, academic conferences and working at free clinics take up most of Wang’s time. He rarely takes a day off.
“Only surgeons who are physically strong can withstand a cardiology department workload,” Wang said. “Anyone who is physically weak and cannot tolerate the toil of operations has long been sifted out.”
According to the 2018 white paper, 23.6 percent of the 146,200 surveyed doctors from 44,600 hospitals have never taken annual leave, while 4.4 percent said they weren’t aware they had leave.
On average, hospitals in China see 20 million patients per day. Doctors in tertiary hospitals work an average 51.05 hours over a five-day workweek. Doctors in surgery departments, in particular, work an average 53.3 hours per week. Two-fifths of all surveyed doctors said they sleep less than six hours per day.
Zhu Liangfu admitted that he was “afraid to die.” “With the heavy workload and irregular rest every day, I’m afraid I might just collapse one day. But I can’t. I haven’t fulfilled my responsibilities to my family, and as a doctor I still have a responsibility for my hospital. I can’t die. It takes the country 25 years to train a head doctor like myself. I’m 44 this year, and if I collapse, it’s a waste of national resources,” Zhu said.
To maintain his physical and mental strength, Zhu lives a very disciplined lifestyle. He runs about five kilometers every day and journals daily for reflection.
“He [Zhu Liangfu] is extremely strict on himself, like an ascetic,” Liu Ya, the project’s assistant director who filmed Zhu, told NewsChina.
But Zhu’s definition of a “good doctor” impressed Liu the most. He said, “Being nice and showing concern are not what’s most important. A good doctor should be the one who, once at the operation table, treats patients just like they’re treating a dog.”
“What does that mean? It means a doctor should not have any emotions. Emotions interfere with treatment. No matter who is on the operation table, a stranger, a governor or the doctor’s own father, the doctor should treat every patient equally without discrimination. That’s what makes a good doctor.”
Many of the doctors featured in the documentary went to Wuhan, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. He Qiang, the deputy director of the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital, is treating Covid-19 patients in a makeshift hospital. Yin Fanghong, deputy head of ICU at the West China Hospital of Sichuan University, was transferred to the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital.
Shi Binggen, director of the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University and veteran of the 2003 SARS epidemic, is back on the frontlines and leading a medical support team in Hubei Province.