The family of a Chinese doctor are fighting officials who refuse to class his death in a coronavirus-hit city as a work-related incident, after he treated more than 3,000 patients in just one month.
Dr Liu Wenxiong, 50, died after suffering a heart attack on the morning of February 13 having seen 3,181 patients – including 670 presenting themselves with fevers – between January 12 and February 12.
He was one of four front-line medics at Sanfutan Town Hospital in the city of Xiantao, which has been on lockdown for over a month together with nearly 60 million others residing in the central Chinese province of Hubei.
The Central Committee of China's Communist Party announced measures to better protect health workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of compensation for infected medics through occupational injury insurance.
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However, a report by the municipal government into the circumstances leading up to Doctor Liu's death ruled that it was not work-related.
The ruling on February 20 by the Xiantai City Human Resources and Social Security Bureau said the case did not meet the conditions of an occupational death, and that the medic did not die of coronavirus-related symptoms either.
It means Doctor Liu's wife, Peng Changxian, will not be eligible to claim the relevant insurance in spite of her husband's life-risking work on the front line.
Hospital records show that in the month leading up to the medic's death, Doctor Liu took just two days off and one additional sick leave day on January 30.
He regularly saw more than 100 patients a day, including 180 on January 21, with his total surpassing the combined number of patients seen by all three remaining colleagues in the facility's fever ward.
Liu Hang, the doctor's son, noted that his father had been diagnosed with a heart condition in 2017 and experienced occasional chest pains.
After suffering a heart attack on the morning of 13th February, the medic's colleagues were called to his home, but he was declared dead at 6.14am local time.
Mr Liu said his father continued to take cases long after he left the hospital where he works.
He added: "10pm at night or 6am in the morning, there would always be someone calling even before he got out of bed."
Sanfutan Town Hospital Director Zhou Huailin told local media: "Liu Wenxiong was an excellent doctor.
"He had a very high standard of medical ethics and skills. Among the four staff in the out-patient ward, he saw most cases."
According to reports, Doctor Liu's family plans to appeal the local government's ruling.
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