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The government has found a correct focus in medical care reform by stressing community medical service although numerous concerns are still to be addressed, says a commentary in Beijing News. An excerpt follows:

Every family within the city of Beijing will receive regular medical service from community medical teams free of charge by the end of 2008 and the same benefits will be extended to cover as many rural families as possible.

The news released on Wednesday is encouraging. Access to community medical services is vital in improving medical care, according to both our own experiences and lessons from other countries.

When the common people have access to medical services within their community, it indicates a renewed emphasis on community medical services in the reform of medical care.

In the past several years, community clinics and smaller medical institutes have been neglected while the large hospitals received the major portion of medical resources. As a result, patients preferred the big hospitals to the neighborhood clinics.

When the government decides to pay for the community doctors' home visits, as will soon happen in Beijing, it will significantly bridge the gap between large hospitals and smaller ones.

When families get regular health care from professionals, they will be able to receive timely treatment for diseases diagnosed early.

However, questions remain on home visits by community doctors as a routine part of the country's medical care system.

The rural population is disadvantaged compared with their urban counterparts.

The decision-makers should consider revising the plan to cover low-income urban and rural families first, then extend the plan to cover all rural families.

A survey should be carried out to make the plan more feasible, including the exact number of medical professionals needed, their expected salary costs and the existing number of qualified medical professionals to fill these positions.

(China Daily June 8, 2007)

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