The people in this photo are waiting for the hospital they're sleeping in to open so that they can buy a ticket to see the doctor. They won't go to the appointment though; they'll simply sell their ticket to a scalper, who will then sell it to someone who actually needs it, for a much higher price.  

If you want to see a doctor in China you need to get a ticket from reception. The ticket costs a small fee, which covers the cost of the visit. But Chinese Web users and visitors of the Tongji hospital in Wuhan city, Hubei province say that it's impossible to get hold of a ticket; by the time you've queued up at the entrance, the tickets are all sold out. They say it's because of an impenetrable scalping system; evidence of which is captured in these photos, taken by our Observer Wang Haofeng and posted on his blog.

Photo taken last summer. People hired by the scalpers sleeping on a reception desk in the hospital.

Photo taken this winter. The text reads: "The scalpers hold nearly all the tickets, and earn a lot for that".

In front of the hospital in winter. The text reads: "The scalpers are busy selling tickets".

“A scalper earns at least 20 yuan per ticket in return for doing nothing”

Wang Haofeng is a freelance journalist from Wuhan who has tried to find out about the practice. He went to the Tongji hospital and photographed the scalpers with a hidden camera.

A ticket to see the doctor here usually costs nine yuan (around one euro), but the scalpers sell them at least 40 yuan (four euros). The scalpers hire homeless people to wait in line for the whole night to get a ticket, and pay them 10 yuan for it. As a result, a scalper earns at least 20 yuan (two euros) per ticket in return for doing nothing. A patient outside the hospital told me: "What can I do? The tickets are all bought by the scalpers; we have to pay for them no matter how expensive they are."

The homeless people hired to queue just camp out in the hospital for the night so that they're the first to get a ticket when they go on sale in the morning. It's like queuing up to get hold of a concert ticket.

When I spoke to the doctors at the hospital they told me that they're not responsible for this kind of thing, and when I tried to see with the hospital security service, there were no one there. Nobody is dealing with the problem; the situation's not going to change in the near future. There are also rumours that the scalpers are working in collusion with the hospital, but I haven't got any proof of that yet."