Medical reform challenges remain

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, March 4, 2011
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More than a year after the latest phase of China's ongoing medical reforms started, the nation's top health official conceded many uncertainties remain about how best to improve public hospitals.

Minister of Health Chen Zhu made the remarks on Thursday from the sidelines of the Fourth Session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

"Now, it still remains a tough question; how to operate public hospitals in our country," said Chen, who is a CPPCC member with no party affiliation. "Given that health administrations at both the central and local levels are actively groping for a way that might work, I am confident that we can finally figure it out."

He added that medical reform is a common challenge facing all countries. Worldwide, every government is struggling with the problem of lowering overall health expenditure while trying to provide universal healthcare to citizens.

On the Chinese mainland, public hospitals owned and run by the government shoulder more than 90 percent of medical services and related problems abound, such as the widely criticized practice of public hospitals relying on drug sales for their income, said Wu Ming, a professor at Peking University's School of Public Health, who is also a CPPCC member.

"The government needs to figure out a sustainable funding mechanism that will not hurt the interests of stakeholders," she said.

In 2009, the central government unveiled a three-year plan costing 850 billion yuan ($130 billion) for medical reforms, including the setting up of multi-layered health insurance policies to cover as many people as possible and carrying out the reform of public hospitals. The aim of the plan was to offer universal and affordable medical services to all people in the country.

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