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Gov't will spend more to reform healthcare
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The country's healthcare reforms, which aims to provide basic medical services to all, will increase the government's responsibility and contribution, Minister of Health Chen Zhu said yesterday.

In a report on medical care and public health system reforms submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee at its current session, Chen said: "The government should play a leading role in providing medical care and public health service."

And the central and local governments should "significantly" increase their contributions in the health sector.

Though additional funds will help meet the needs of medical institutions and patients both, they can also be used to provide healthcare in rural areas and urban communities and alleviate the suffering of the patients.

The government, individuals and society as a whole will have to split the cost of basic medical care, the report says.

The existing healthcare system has drawn widespread criticism because of sky-high costs.

That made the government determined to deepen healthcare reforms to set up a scientific and all-encompassing healthcare system that would include public health, medical care and insurance, drug supply and hospital management by 2020.

Acknowledging that the government's financial support to the health sector is far from enough, Chen vowed to spend more on health, disease control/prevention and medical services.

Ministry of Health figures show that in 2004 less than 6 percent of the country's GDP went to the health sector. That amount paid for only 17 percent of the people's total expenses on health, whereas their own contribution was 54 percent.

Drugs accounted for 44 percent of the medical bills, though they constitute only about 15 percent in European countries.

The trend of selling medicines to sustain medical institutions has made patients the victims of profit, say critics, alleging patients are usually drained dry by some hospitals.

To address the problem, the government will grant subsidy to both medical services users and providers, Chen said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 27, 2007)

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