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China Regulates Hospital Procurement
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China's Ministry of Health is tightening controls over hospital procurement in an effort to fight corruption and to improve the viability of costly purchases.

Public hospitals at the county level and above and nonprofit medical institution attached to state owned enterprises must now collectively purchase medical equipment, He Jinguo, deputy director of the ministry's financial planning department, said Friday at a news conference.

By forcing hospitals to make collective purchases, He said there will be less chance for officials to take kickbacks.

The purchase of a piece of medical equipment worth more than 2 million yuan (US$250,000) should be organized by provincial health departments, He said.

He said the ministry will also evaluate medical equipment on the market to provide technical references in order to reduce purchasing costs for hospitals.

The new purchasing plan is part of China's campaign to crack down on commercial bribery in the drug and medical equipment businesses, which sometime provide commissions to health workers and hospital administrators.

"The  Ministry of Health has given the China Association of Medical Equipment (CAME) responsibility for conducting evaluations and publishing the results," He said. "Standards of medical equipment will be recommended to all health departments so that their investment in health care equipment can be better realized."

The purposes of the evaluations are to prevent some foreign medical equipment companies from using Chinese hospitals as testing ground and to guide hospitals purchase suitable medical devices that meet their demands, said Zhao Zilin, deputy director of the financial planning department.

"Some foreign companies sell their equipment so that Chinese hospitals can provide technical data for them," Zhao said.

He also said that some county-level hospitals purchase expensive equipment and give patients unnecessary tests adding to the cost of their treatment. "Expensive, high-tech equipment is often used inappropriately in these hospitals," said Zhao.

China's medical equipment market is expected to grow from US$1.2 billion in 2005 to US$1.7 billion this year.

(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2006)

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