China will establish a cooperative healthcare network covering
all rural residents by the end of 2010, according to a five-year
(2006-2010) government health plan released on Thursday.
Governments at various levels will increase financial investment
in rural healthcare and help more farmers to join the program, said
the plan, which was adopted last March by the State Council.
Under the cooperative scheme initiated in 2003, a participant
pays 10 yuan (US$1.3) a year, while the state, provincial,
municipal and county governments supply another 40 yuan (US$5.2) to
the fund. Contributors are then entitled to discounts, provided by
the fund, on their medical expenses.
Official figures show that 410 million farmers in 1,451 counties
- around half of the country's rural population - had joined the
scheme by the end of 2006.
The plan said that the government will spend more money on
building and upgrading clinics in rural areas.
"The private sector is also encouraged to run non-profit health
and medical institutions in counties and villages," the plan
The health authorities will dispatch more doctors from cities to
the countryside to bridge the medical gap between the cities and
countryside, according to the plan.
Statistics show that the Ministry of Health has moved to send
roughly 5,500 doctors and nurses from Chinese cities to the rural
areas this year to help treat rural patients, introduce new
facilities and train local medical staff.
The rural healthcare system was once a core element of Chinese
socialism. After the founding of the People's Republic of China
in1949, rural people had access to subsidized health clinics run by
"barefoot doctors", who were basically middle-school students
trained in first aid.
The primitive service, essentially free, played a role in
doubling the country's average life expectancy from 35 years in
1949 to 68 years in 1978.
When China began its economic reforms in the early 1980s, the
system was dismantled as the country attempted to switch to a
market-oriented healthcare system.
The five-year plan said more efforts would be made to tighten
drug supervision, increase investment in the public health sector
and develop study of China's traditional medicine.
The government will also take measures to encourage individuals
and non-government organizations to participate in health and
medical services, the plan said.
(Xinhua News Agency June 8, 2007)