A National People’s Congress deputy from Tibet Autonomous Region said that a complete system of healthcare covering cities, counties and townships, as well as an early warning and response system for emergent epidemics, has been established there.
Professor Yishi Yangzom, chief pediatrician at Tibet Autonomous Region People’s Hospital, was talking to China.org.cn during the ongoing session of the national legislature in Beijing.
Yangzom was educated in Western medicine at Capital Medical University in the 1960s and has practiced in Tibet for 35 years. She is very proud of the region’s medical achievements over the past three decades.
“Medical undertakings in the 1970s had already progressed greatly compared to the 1950s when Tibet was peacefully liberated, but the medical system in farming and pasturing areas was still weak,” she said.
Yangzom said that, after reform and opening up, development has been accompanied by significant achievements in health. In 2004, the maternal mortality rate in Tibet was 3.1 per thousand, while infant mortality was 42.5 per thousand. The average life expectation of Tibetan people rose to 67 years from 35 years in old Tibet (before 1951).
Currently, every prefecture or city has at least one general hospital, every county one medical center and over 600 townships have medical stations. Most illnesses can now be treated quickly and closer to home.
“From 2002 to 2004, 159 million yuan (US$19.23 million) funded by the issue of T-bonds was invested in Tibet’s three-level medical system, covering cities, counties and townships,” she said. In addition, 153.6 million yuan (US$18.57 million) was spent on the construction of hospitals in 35 townships.
Many funds were spent on training personnel in township hospitals to improve medical services in rural areas, while urban hospitals also continued to improve.
Yangzom used Lhasa, the regional capital, as an example, where there are six second-level or above hospitals and where equipment for gastroscopy, computer tomography and nuclear magnetic resonance scanning is now available.
Since the SARS and bird flu outbreaks, Tibet has also improved its epidemic early warning and response system with financial support from central government. Local medical departments have strengthened preventive measures, as well as establishing mechanisms to control the spread of any emergent epidemic.
According to Yangzom, over 90 percent of Tibetan children are inoculated against measles, tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
The incidence of contagious diseases last year was 2.8 per thousand, while the death ratio was only 0.19 percent.
Many Tibetans living in rural areas like to use traditional Tibetan medicine, while urban residents tend to prefer Western medicine, Yangzom said. Though a practitioner of Western medicine, she is confident in the future of traditional Tibetan medicine.
To support it, both central and local governments have issued many policies, and it has been listed as one of the distinctive and pillar industries of the region.
Traditional remedies, usually taken as pills or soup in the past, can now be made in the form of capsules and syrups, she said.
Currently, there are over 50 Tibetan medicine pharmaceutical enterprises nationwide, producing over 300 kinds of medicine and reaping 3 billion yuan (US$362.76 million) in sales revenue every year.
Local government has also accelerated the education of medical staff. Many Tibetan students are now learning medicine in inland provinces. There are three medical colleges and one specializing in traditional Tibetan medicine in the region.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Tang Fuchun March 13, 2005)