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Health Care Needing New Roadmap
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Experts agree that improvement in community health care twinned with the urgent establishment of a universal health care system are key to revamping China's dire health system.

Over 300 senior officials, researchers and representatives from different sectors of the nation's health care industry gathered at the Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School for a conference entitled "New Horizons for China's Medical Reform."

Although the government has continued to inject cash into the system, its expenditure reaching 66 billion yuan (US$8.25 billion) in 2003, double the spending in 1998, a common public complaint remains that seeing a doctor is difficult and expensive.

Regarding future health service models, many speakers at the forum stressed that accessibility to health services and efficiency are crux issues.

Shi Guang, a professor at the Ministry of Health's China Health Economics Institute, said the future health system should be composed of a primary health care system for basic public health and medical services, while emergency and critical care would be handled in secondary and tertiary medical institutes.
Experts said the government should channel more than 5 percent of the GDP annual health care outlays on public health services and government-run hospitals, instead of covering most medical institutes which can rely more on social support and investment.

On average, government subsidies account for less than 8 percent of public hospitals' revenue, leading them to rely on income from drugs and diagnostics, which results in doctors often over-prescribing drugs and expensive medical tests.

Dr Henk Bekedam, the WHO's China representative, advised the nation to follow the European model of family doctors serving as gatekeepers to residents' health.

(China Daily September 18, 2006)

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