Behind the Beijing hospital fire that takes away 29 lives

Changfeng Hospital provides a physical venue for another elderly care company. Neither has the licenses to take care of old people, it seems.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By ZHAO Meng


A fire broke out at Beijing’s Changfeng Hospital last Tuesday, killing 29 people, 21 were over the age of 60. Many were terminally ill or had little prospect of ever leaving the hospital. 

The unusually high number of elderly patients has brought the hospital and its partner under scrutiny.

Specialist in dementia care

Changfeng Hospital has been working with Beijing Fushoukang Elderly Care (Fushoukang) since at least 2019. Neither seems to have the required licenses for in-patient care of the elderly.

Fushoukang and Changfeng Hospital have been partners since at least 2019. The fire broke out in the Fushoukang Care Center. The center has 150 beds and charges between 4,800 yuan (US$700) and 9,500 yuan a month. The services include rehabilitation and hospice care. A publicity photo shows a room with two beds, a TV and an en-suite bathroom.

On its website, Fushoukang bills itself as a specialist in dementia care with seven facilities in Beijing, all operating inside private hospitals.

This is not a nursing home

The description of “Fushoukang Care Center for the Functionally Disabled Elderly - Yuegezhuang Location” – Changfeng Hospital, that is – describes wards for patients who are bedridden and demand long-term care.

“Hospitals that need to turn beds over fast cannot accommodate their needs,” it said. “This facility’s wards are designed for both treatment and care, hence are a good fit for these patients.”

The profile has since been removed from Fushoukang’s website.

A Fushoukang representative told Jiemian News that the company is an elderly care provider and accepts patients who “stay for six months, a year, or more.” He also said Fushoukang and its partner hospitals operate independently. When pressed on the relationship between them, he rang off.

Two of those hospitals confirmed that they provide care for patients with functional disabilities but denied being a nursing home.

Hard-and-fast rule

In 2019 the government began encouraging hospitals to provide elderly care and nursing homes. These “hybrids” must acquire licenses for both medical treatment and in-patient elderly care. Fushoukang is not listed in a national database of elderly care providers, and the business registration mentions only in-home elderly care and healthcare consulting. Changfeng Hospital is in a similar position.

A Beijing official said the government enforces licensing rules rigorously. Everyone that provides in-patient elderly care, be it nursing homes and hospitals, must comply. “This is a hard-and-fast rule.”

A private hospital must be authorized to provide in-patient elderly care, which entails passing a barrage of inspections.  To be approved, he said, a facility must pass enhanced fire inspections. They typically need to spend up to a million yuan on safety equipment and hire a certain number of qualified healthcare workers, which is costly.

Beijing Changfeng Hospital is one of twenty hospitals in Changfeng Hospital Group

Renowned expertise

The group specializes in the treatment of angioma - a common, minor vascular condition that rarely requires treatment - and has won many awards, according to its official WeChat account. The company is extremely active on social media and flushes search engines with sponsored links.

In reality, its reputation is far from impeccable. In 2019, it was exposed to have hired actors to pose as medical experts on telemedicine websites.

WANG Wenjie, founder, former chairman, and still the largest shareholder of the company, “and a renowned angioma expert,” regularly makes appearances at academic conferences. But his education only lists an associate degree and no publications can be found under his name.

Financial health check up

Changfeng Hospital Group is listed on the New Third Board, an over-the-counter exchange for trading small and medium-sized companies, but it doesn’t seem to be on sound financial footing.

A few days before the fire, investors were told that 2022 earnings would be delayed because of auditing issues. In the first half of 2022, its losses increased to 32 million yuan from 13 million in the same period the year before. At that time, Changfeng owed 462 million yuan, 70 percent of the total balance sheet.

Last month, Beijing Changfeng Hospital published a blog post saying it enforces fire safety measures strictly. The post said it had identified fire hazards and taken action to mitigate them.