Sunday, 10 March 2013

Moving from profit to public service: reforming China's hospitals

National advisers at the ongoing political sessions in Beijing are discussing ways to speed up the reform of the country's public hospitals.
Pilot reform projects have now been in place in 16 cities since the plan was rolled out in 2010.
During the past three years, China has adopted different reform measures in pilot government-run hospitals throughout the country.
The core principle of the reform is to provide basic health care as a "public service," including improving the way of seeing doctors.
However, the reform still cannot be fully implemented nationwide with increasing complaints about high medical costs, especially costs for unnecessary medical tests and prescription drugs by large public hospitals.
Yang Jinsheng is a researcher at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.
"There's no trans-hospital network about the in-hospital information of patients. Patients go to different hospitals to see doctors, and hospitals only rely on their own treatments. So patients are asked to do many medical tests if they change hospitals." However, sometimes such unnecessary costs are charged due to a pursuit of profit.
Public hospitals in China enjoyed full government funding before 1985. But the situation changed as they embarked on a market-oriented reform as economic reform and opening up policy was adopted in late 1978.
The market-oriented reform greatly improved medical service, but also resulted in soaring costs for medical services and drug prescriptions.
Sun Fengyuan, vice president of the Tianjin First Center Hospital, suggests the government offer a compensation mechanism to public hospitals.
"Hospitals should be institutions working for the public welfare, and should have some basic guarantees. Now they only rely on themselves to make profits. It's difficult to control. If they don't make money on prescription drug sales, they may have difficulties in economic turnover. But if the government offers compensation, there's no need to do so."
Sun also suggests an equal distribution of medical resources so that small hospitals can also provide quality treatment for patients. This will also help reduce the long waiting hours before seeing doctors in big hospitals.
He Wei, president of He's Medical University in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, agrees.
He says building a team of quality medical workers at county-level hospitals can be one of the solutions.
"It's a rapid way to strengthen the training of fundamental medical workers. And at the same time send quality medical resources to the grassroots. Neither of the two can be dispensed with."
He also suggests the government further open the medical sector to private investors, hoping that medical costs could drop through competition.
Source: Xinhua

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