The Chinese Red Cross Foundation yesterday launched
a program aimed at providing aid to farmers unable to pay medical
bills. The same day the State Council said it would speed up
development of rural cooperative healthcare.
At a ceremony in Beijing yesterday,
the foundation said it had received 1.7 million yuan
(US$210,000) in donations from enterprises and individuals.
Tang Shengwen, the foundation's deputy director,
said the money raised through the "Red Cross Angel Program" will be
used to help the rural poor afford medical insurance.
Citing a 2003 national survey, Tang said nearly
half of rural residents who need medical treatment do not even see
a doctor and 30 percent of those who should stay in hospital remain
at home because of cost.
Eighty percent of the country's 900 million rural
people do not have any medical insurance, and many fall into utter
poverty when family members fall ill, even if only a small
operation is needed, said Tang.
There is a saying in rural areas that the cost of
an appendectomy will mean a family's farm work for a year will have
been in vain.
Wang Rupeng, the foundation's secretary-general,
said that though farmers' incomes have been on the rise in recent
years, the growth rate is rather slow. At the same time, the cost
of drugs, outpatient care and hospitalization has soared.
"More than 80 percent of China's population is
rural. But government medical expenditure on them only accounts for
20 percent of the total," Wang said.
Wang said that the new program plans to help at
least 10,000 poor farmers get medical insurance through the rural
cooperative medical system.
The money raised through the program will also help
local governments improve equipment in hospitals and clinics at
township and village levels, Wang added.
"The program will subsidize rural doctors to
receive professional training," said Wang. "A donation of 3,000
yuan (US$370) can pay for a rural medical worker to undergo 10 days
The State Council said in Beijing yesterday that
the development of the rural cooperative medical system will be
accelerated, as it has proved successful so far in pilot areas.
Begun in 2003, the voluntary system is currently
run in 21 percent of the nation's counties and cities, with plans
to increase this to 40 percent by 2006.
(China Daily August 11, 2005)