China's rural population of 800 million people is expected to receive a better primary health service under a newly adopted administrative regulation on the management of medical practitioners in the nation's countryside.
All country doctors now have to apply for a certificate, valid for five years, to practice medicine, and they have to re-apply three months after their certificate expires, otherwise they cannot work. An evaluation will also take place before the certificates are issued.
Practitioners without the correct paperwork will face punishment ranging from being banned and having income, medical appliances and medicines confiscated, to paying fine or facing criminal charges.
The regulation says the opinions of villagers and village committees should be fully considered when the doctors are being evaluated, which means villagers should get a better service.
Specific methods on how to conduct the registration will be worked out by provincial-level governments.
Premier Wen Jiabao has signed a decree issuing the Regulation on the Management of Medical Practitioners in the Countryside, which will take effect at the start of next year.
The regulation aims to improve the professional skills and ethics of country doctors, enhance the management of medical practitioners, protect the legitimate interests and rights of rural doctors, and ensure that villagers have full access to primary medical care.
The rural population accounts for over 60 percent of the nation's almost 1.3 billion people, according to the latest census conducted in 2001.
There were just over 1 million country doctors in China at the end of 2001 and more than 33 percent of them were over 46 years old, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.
Among the country doctors under 45, about 82 percent of them have received a formal and systematic education.
Generally speaking, some farmers with knowledge of medicine take on part-time jobs as doctors. They will now be forced to get a professional education under the new regulation.
Educational institutions of medical sciences should train medical personnel to work in China's rural areas and make a suitable curriculum for them, the regulation says.
It also encourages country doctors to gain a basic knowledge of traditional Chinese medicines and use such skills on the job, acquire academic credentials through a medical science education and participate in the national doctors' qualification test.
Under the regulation, China also encourages country doctors and their assistants to establish rural medical institutions to offer medical services to villagers.
(China Daily August 18, 2003)