All of China's 60 million disabled people should have easy access to recuperation services by 2015.
State Councillor Ismail Amat made the pledge at the Third National Recuperation Work Conference for the Disabled People yesterday.
A complete network providing professional recuperation services and covering every community with disabled residents will be established, he said.
Recuperation for disabled people is a comparatively new concept in China, and did not gain the attention of the central government until the late 1980s.
Two decades of effort has put things on a surer footing with more than 6 million disabled people benefiting from recuperation projects.
They received remedial help through specially designed projects for the blind, deaf, amputees and people suffering mental problems.
But at least 30 million disabled people are still in need of medical care, said Deng Pufang, president of the All-China Disabled Persons' Federation.
"As far as disabled people are concerned, nothing is more important than recuperation," said Deng. "Because it means a drastically enhanced way of life."
An investigation by the federation found that a large proportion of disabled people are classified as "poor," with disability the major cause of their destitution.
Deng welcomed the commitment from the State Council and said the first tasks must be the recruitment of professionals and securing enough funds.
"In the near future, we would like to see the remaining 50 percent of the country's medical schools that do not offer recuperation courses to do so," he said.
"We need the number of recuperation centres to increase quickly from the present level of 1,500.
"All doctors at small rural hospitals are advised to gain recuperation certificates, particularly those who are newly appointed."
Deng said private funds were especially welcome in the provision of recuperation services, while local governments should pledge greater support.
For example, provincial officials should consider including costs incurred in the recuperation of disabled persons in general social insurance, he said.
Deng said help from global organizations like the Lions Club International, a US-based welfare organization, had been especially important.
It brought to a close yesterday the first phase of its "Sightfirst China Action", which it launched in 1997 with relevant government departments to improve eye treatment.
It officially kicked off the second stage of the activity yesterday as well.
"The action has greatly enhanced China's capacity to treat cataracts and has helped restore eyesight to 2.1 million cataract-sufferers," said Zhu Qingsheng, vice-minister of health.
The second stage of the action will continue until the end of 2007, aiming to complete 2.5 million cataract extraction operations. This surpasses the 1.75 million target set for the first stage.
(China Daily August 30, 2002 )