Improving the ethics of China's medical professionals is a key task for the nation's universities, China's health minister has said.
Chen Zhu, the minister, made the remarks at a two-day inter-ministerial meeting on medical education, English-language China Daily reported Wednesday.
Chen said the medical community was beset by a general unwillingness to accept responsibility and a lack of awareness on the part of its members about their legal obligations.
In China, some hospitals run their own drug stores and doctors receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing certain drugs. In recent years excessive prescriptions are partly responsible for a spike in medical disputes, many of which escalated into violent confrontations which made national headlines, the report said.
Doctors in some hospitals have even resorted to wearing helmets to protect themselves from dissatisfied former patients and their families.
"Efforts to spread the humanitarian spirit and a strong work ethic to medical students should come first at medical schools," Chen was quoted as saying.
The minister said meeting the public's medical care expectations was another major challenge facing the healthcare industry.
Currently some 6.58 million medical professionals are straining to look after the health of China's 1.3 billion people, he said.
For every 1,000 people in China there are just 1.56 licensed doctors and 1.12 registered nurses.
"Our physician-to-population ratio is far lower than what is found in most medium developed and even some developing countries," Chen said.
Treating 2.5 billion patients each year, medical professionals must bear a heavy workload with limited resources available nationwide.
The strain this places on the system has seriously affected the quality of medical services, Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qun'an said.
Public health institutes and community clinics are also feeling the pressure after talented professionals have flocked to hospitals in large cities, Chen said.
Some 18.5 percent of the medical staffers working at township-level hospitals do not have official medical credentials, MOH statistics show.
The general quality of the people working at community health clinics in cities also needs to be improved, Chen said.
To address the situation, medical schools should be turning out more general practitioners willing to work for grassroots medical institutes rather than specialists for large hospitals, he said.
"After all, to ensure that everyone in China has access to basic medical care is our ultimate goal and the main challenge for medical schools," he said.
The Ministry of Education has also taken up the call.
"We should turn this challenge into an opportunity," Education Minister Zhou Ji said.
Medical education should be more demand-oriented, Zhou urged.
"We'll train more competent physicians, especially for rural areas and urban clinics," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2008)