Most counties in central and western China will soon have mobile
hospitals to ensure basic health care for poverty-stricken rural
residents. The central government has equipped counties in the
region with 1,004 coaches to provide door-to-door health care for
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the
Ministry of Health have invested 230 million yuan (US$27.7 million)
in the program, and the NDRC indicates that an additional 800
coaches bought with treasury bonds will be put into use at the end
of this year.
"We aim to equip every county in western and central China with
a mobile hospital," said NDRC Vice Minister Li Shenglin in Beijing
on Saturday. Li said the program is part of the central
government's efforts to develop a sound health care system in rural
The coaches will mainly be used in common disease diagnosis,
minor operations, health checkups and health education for rural
residents, who often live many kilometers away from cities and
Under the close supervision of provincial governments,
county-level hospitals will use the vehicles to conduct medical
checkups related to AIDS and other contagious diseases.
But local officials and residents are offering a cautious
Xiong Guanglin, mayor of the city of Bazhong in southwest
Province, said investment in the health sector in western rural
areas is particularly low.
"Shocking statistics will indicate how much investment the rural
areas need," said Xiong.
In his city, more than 90 percent of women in urban areas give
birth in hospital, while about 90 percent of babies are born at
home in the countryside. While more than 90 percent of deaths in
urban areas occur in hospital, more than 90 percent of people pass
away at home in rural areas.
Xiong also said that while 70 percent of the nation's population
lives in rural areas, they have access to just 30 percent of the
nation's health and medical care resources.
"A simple comparison can reveal a great deal," Xiong said. "When
putting an end to hasty investments, the fact that some rural
regions are in dire need of investment should not be
In some impoverished areas, farmers have to pay medical bills
themselves. The farmers cannot afford to pay for checkups so they
are more likely to become seriously ill, which in turn makes them
The Ministry of Health reports that since last year, the central
government has allocated 10 yuan (US$1.20) annually to every rural
resident in central and western China to help them join a new
medical insurance scheme.
The plan, which will also collect 10 yuan for each rural
resident from local governments and the same amount from the
residents themselves, is a way to help those who are poor to afford
expensive medical treatment for serious illnesses.
(China Daily August 2, 2004)