Family doctors are becoming an established part of community life in China as more people turn to their general practitioner for medical help rather than make the traditional trip to the hospital.
In Zhejiang Province, an economic power house on China's east coast, nearly a quarter of the population now enjoy medical services in the community.
Latest figures show that for every 15,000 to 20,000 people in Zhejiang, there is one medical centre.
General practitioners with these service centres normally provide first aid and more personal services to families upon request and help promote health care and family planning within the community.
"Family doctors play a major role in our life," said Rong Ruqin, a heart-disease patient. "My granddaughter says they are 'guardians of our health.'"
Rong's son and daughter are both working abroad. Her 92-year-old mother, her granddaughter and herself are among the first to benefit from the family doctor service in Zhejiang. Their family doctor, Ma Haiyan, is like a member of the family.
This type of service is mainly designed to benefit the general public. "This is a new attempt to reform China's old health service system," said a health official.
(Xinhua News Agency April 10, 2002)