Medical reform challenges remain

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Other than the thorny issue of public hospital reform, "it's also a worry that the capacity of grassroots-level hospitals is quite limited," Chen noted, citing historical reasons. For instance, 8,000 county-level hospitals still cannot carry out dialysis, a treatment necessary for uremia patients, he said.

Chen also revealed that the treatment of severe conditions, including uremia, breast cancer and cervical cancer, will soon be covered by the health policy under selected pilot schemes.

By the end of 2010, more than 1.25 billion people on the mainland were covered by various health insurance policies, according to statistics from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. But Health Ministry figures reveal that people still had to pay 37 percent of their overall medical bills last year.

Regarding the food safety issue, he said the central government was highly concerned and working hard to protect people from problematic food.

In five years, a network of food-borne disease surveillance will be set up to help facilitate better knowledge of and quicker response to food safety problems, he said.

"It's also part of the plan to integrate the task of securing food safety into the country's major public health projects, now including immunization and major disease prevention," he added.

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