China's Failing Health System

In his thin cotton mask and makeshift welder's goggles, Dr. Li Li guards China's shifting front line against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic. The young doctor oversees a new fever ward at the medical clinic in Biange township in central China's largely rural Hebei province, and he's dangerously unprepared for an outbreak of the disease. A chronic funding shortage means his clinic lacks even enough surgical masks. Behind him, workers erect a flimsy Plexiglas shield across a hallway to create an isolation ward where one patient already lies feverish. Asked if his facility can cope with SARS, Dr. Li...

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