A Chinese hospital director faces the sack after a whistleblower shared damning images showing him and three other staff apparently gambling behind closed doors despite a country-wide ban during the coronavirus outbreak.
It is now forbidden to play the popular Chinese tile game known as mahjong in public spaces, as the gathering of at least four individuals per table is seen as a public health risk during the viral outbreak of the officially termed COVID-19.
Footage taken by the so far anonymous female member from the facility in the city of Yushu, in north-eastern China’s Jilin Province shows a health worker entering the room where her colleagues appear to be shuffle mahjong tiles.
In the video secretly filmed on 8th February, the health worker pretends to ask Director Fan about working as a front-line medic, but she quickly leaves with the gambling evidence after he declines her request in a brief exchange.
Subsequent images taken from the same room, which is reportedly one of two used for recreational activities such as mahjong or chess, appear to show the director and other members of staff sitting around a mahjong table.
The clip is believed to have been filmed during regular work hours.
The whistleblower told local media: “The cashier, director, radiologist and a member of the disease prevention station were there.
“They weren’t busy at all. It’s us doctors and nurses who are busy.
“They’ve been playing mahjong at the hospital for years. We have two mahjong rooms.
“Before the outbreak, they were already playing mahjong in the mornings and afternoons whenever they’re free.”
Fan Qingshan, director of Huaijia Hospital, responded to the allegations by saying: “We have a psychiatric ward here. Mahjong is used to entertain and stimulate the intellect of psychiatric patients.
“There is no way we would be sitting there and playing mahjong at 8 or 9 in the morning.
“We are very strict here. I swear on my job.”
However, no patients are seen in the video and Director Fan later admitted to occasionally playing mahjong with his colleagues, explaining: “We never play for real money. We play a little during breaks or after work.”
On 17th February, the Yushu Health Commission released a statement saying it is treating the incident as a matter of “high importance”.
It has suspended Director Fan, pending an investigation, and an interim expert has been assigned in his absence.
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