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China Seeks Private Health Input
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Central government officials and international experts yesterday called for the participation of the private sector in the reform of the country's messy healthcare system.

The system, dominated by government-run hospitals, is widely criticized for its expensive service that many patients complain as unaffordable and is often riddled with corruption.

More than 40 percent of patients' medical bills goes to drugs, compared with 15 percent for EU citizens, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

To dismantle the monopoly of government-run hospitals, China will "encourage investment from all sectors of society, including private sector medical services," Wang Jun, vice-minister of finance, told a Health Care Public-Private Partnership Forum in Beijing yesterday.

Reform of government-run hospitals is also a key element in the 11th Five-Year Development Plan for the Health Sector, which the State Council released yesterday.

The goal, according to Vice-Health Minister Chen Xiaohong, is to set up a government-led market system of healthcare, in which both government and private sector entities work together to provide better service.

Figures for 2005 show that privately-run hospitals accounted for only 10.8 percent of the nation's 8,703 major hospitals; and the situation is unlikely to have changed significantly since then.

Also, there is little foreign investment in the system right now, although Xinhua News Agency reported that last Sunday, Minister of Health Gao Qiang said China is ready to allow Chinese-foreign joint venture hospitals, in which overseas investors can hold up to 70 percent of the equity.

To prepare for the comprehensive healthcare reform, the State Council has created a committee comprising 14 government agencies to coordinate its progress.

The committee has asked six organizations, including the WHO, the State Council Development Research Center and Peking University to put forward their proposals.

(China Daily March 22, 2007)

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