Medical aid website Shuidichou suspends its offline consultants
Move comes after video shows dubious practices in the recruitment of patients
Online crowdfunding medical aid platform Shuidichou has suspended its offline consultant team after video-sharing site Pear Video reported that the team has targeted hospitals to get as many patients registered with the platform as possible.
The company has organized a team led by its general manager to investigate the incidents, Shuidichou said on Saturday via its Sina Weibo account.
The incidents highlighted by Pear Video are individual cases where staff members deviated from the platform's mission, and the staff involved will be punished after a nationwide probe－with an emphasis in cities like Chengdu in Sichuan province, Zhengzhou in Henan province and Ningbo in Zhejiang province, where Pear Video recorded evidence of the marketing representatives' actions, the statement said.
The offline consultant team offers services to elderly patients who are not familiar with the internet and explains to them how the platform works, it said.
According to a video posted by Pear Video, Shuidichou has hired "volunteer" consultants in more than 40 cities to find patients to register with the platform.
The consultants get paid based on the number of patients they sign up, and they are paid as much as 150 yuan ($23) for each new patient.
Each consultant must enroll more than 35 patients on the platform each month, and in order to complete the task, consultants often ignore or fabricate the financial status of the patients, it said.
The company acknowledged on Monday that some consultants have violated company rules. Its offline consultants will no longer be paid based on how many patients they bring in, but on the number of patients that can pass the company's evaluation, it said in a new statement.
Shuidichou, which began operating in 2016, has allowed millions of poor patients to seek financial aid. Users share stories about their difficulties, post their medical records, set a fundraising target and are allocated a donation page that can be forwarded to social platforms such as WeChat.
Shuidichou does not take a commission from the donations. It makes money mainly from advertising insurance products on its platform, according to previous reports by technology media website 36kr.
The company has been hit with public criticism for its failure to verify fundraisers' claims and to detect misuse of donations.
In May, Wu Shuai, a crosstalk performer with Beijing comic group Deyunshe, planned to raise 1 million yuan－the highest sum that can be requested on the platform－after he had a cerebral hemorrhage. Public scrutiny began to intensify after netizens found that Wu's family owns a car and two apartments in Beijing and was covered by health insurance.
Li Yinglu, a researcher at China Philanthropy Research Institute affiliated with Beijing Normal University, said people should be aware that since platforms usually do not examine applicants' information, donation fraud does occur.
Moreover, the way donations are spent is not released in a timely manner, which diminishes the credibility of such platforms, Li said.
"Such scams in the name of disease-related crowdfunding campaigns are severely shaking public confidence," she said. "It has also dealt a heavy blow to those in urgent need of donations from such platforms."