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Migrants Get Better, Cheaper Health Care

Migrant children and pregnant mothers will receive better quality and affordable health services in Shanghai starting this year, according to the Shanghai Health Bureau.

Officials said that the goal is to bring the care of migrant children living in the city up to the standards of their Shanghai peers in terms of vaccinations.

Children aged 1 to 6 will receive five free inoculations against seven diseases, including tuberculosis, poliomyelitis and measles. According to China's public health care system, youngsters should be vaccinated in places where they are registered residents.

Nearly 100 percent of Shanghai kids receive inoculations.

However, a great number of the 4 million child migrants in Shanghai don't travel back to their hometowns, so they miss their shots.

The resulting lack of immunity among these children can lead to disease.

"The related government department will pay for the extra vaccination fee. Migrant children only need to pay one yuan (US$0.12) for the syringe just as Shanghai children do," Liu Jun, director of the Shanghai Health Bureau, told a working conference last week.

Detailed plans for the inoculation project have not been mapped out yet, nor have the costs, according to a bureau official.

The program also addresses the needs of pregnant migrant women who can also expect better services with 10 new maternity centers.

"We hope to plan quality and inexpensive services for them so that most of migrant women can give birth in hospitals and ensure the safety of both mothers and babies," Liu said.

The average fee for childbirth in a regular hospital is around 3,000 yuan (US$370), which turns away many migrant mothers-to-be away because of cost. Some turn to unlicensed practitioners, putting mothers and babies at risk.

A bureau official in charge of the project said in order to control costs, the maternity centers will not provide unnecessary services.

(China Daily March 22, 2004)

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