How Bad Is China’s Debt? A City Hospital Is Asking Nurses for Loans

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RUZHOU, China — When the call came for local doctors and nurses to step up for their troubled community, the emergency wasn’t medical. It was financial.

Ruzhou, a city of one million people in central China, urgently needed a new hospital, their bosses said. To pay for it, the administrators were asking health care workers for loans. If employees didn’t have the money, they were pointed to banks where they could borrow it and then turn it over to the hospital.

China’s doctors and nurses are paid a small fraction of what medical professionals make in the United States. On message boards online and in the local media, many complained that they felt pressured to pony up thousands of dollars they could not afford to give.

“It’s like adding insult to injury,” a message posted to an online government forum said. Others, speaking to state and local media, asked why money from lowly employees was needed to build big-ticket government projects.

In response, a growing number of Chinese cities are raising money using hospitals, schools and other institutions. Often they use complicated financial arrangements, like lease agreements or trusts, that stay a step ahead of regulators in Beijing.

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