A State Council document on expanding community medical care services will enable every urban Chinese to be covered by the service by 2010.
It is expected that by then every city will have established a complete urban residential community health service system, the Nanfang Daily reported.
Currently, only a few large and medium-sized cities in China provide community health services, sources said.
In big cities, every 30,000-50,000 urban residents will have access to a community health service centre within four years. A number of affiliated offices will also be established in accordance with requirements of urban residents, said the document.
The document, which will be published soon, was based on a discussion by the central government with provincial capital and county-level officials late last month.
Cities in eastern and central areas, as well as provincial capitals in western regions, are expected to achieve the goal ahead of 2010.
Meanwhile, rich counties and towns will learn the experiences of urban community health service providers to strengthen rural community health services.
The reason why urban residents find it difficult and expensive to see a doctor is that "residential communities lack health services" and "big hospitals occupy too many medical facilities and professions," the document said.
"Community health service is the basis for urban public health. It should be enjoyed by every urban resident," Chen Jie, a medical professor at Fudan University, was quoted as saying.
It is reported that China's public health investment was 0.9 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), while the global average is 4 percent. The document stated that urban community health should be public welfare, rather than profit-orientated.
Currently, community health service centers have to earn money by themselves as they lack sufficient government investment.
Local governments have been urged to invest in residential community health services, instead of merely in big hospitals, the document said.
As some central and western areas are in poverty, the central government plans to give financial assistance to them on this issue.
Urban residents will enjoy basic medical services including ordinary and frequent disease treatment, as well as public health services like disease prevention and family planning medical guidance.
Meanwhile large hospitals will focus on treatment of fatal and difficult diseases, sources said.
(China Daily January 16, 2006)