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Stop buying and selling hospitals
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Switching ownership of hospitals will not guarantee the success of the country's healthcare reform, unless there is a sound systematic medical mechanism in the interest of the general public, says an article in People's Daily. Following is an excerpt:

Government-funded hospitals can be sold to private owners and bought back under the same banner - healthcare reform. That's the reality in China today.

Years ago, we sold the hospitals. Now, we are buying them back, saying it is in the interest of the general population. Or so the government claims.

If it happens on a limited level as a pilot project, no one would have a problem. But if hospitals are bought and sold across the country, there is a question that needs to be answered: Can't we decide once and for all whether we should sell the hospitals or buy them?

In the years when selling government-funded hospitals was a popular trend, it was easy to find the government saying the hospitals were suffering huge losses or that it was difficult and expensive for patients to see a doctor.

Now, to buy back those hospitals the government says private hospitals only care about profits.

Since neither government-funded nor private hospitals can solve the difficulty of offering quality and cheap healthcare service, it seems meaningless to switch the ownerships back and forth.

Previously, some local governments sold these hospitals to reduce their financial burdens. Now, as the central government tries to add financial support to healthcare, local governments are hoping to buy back hospitals to get more financial aid.

If the healthcare reform is only in the interest of a small group, it will be a waste of public money. As long as we stick to the principle of providing cheap and quality healthcare service for every citizen, we will find out a model suitable for China's conditions.

(China Daily April 23, 2009)

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