Thursday, 10 April 2014

Private health is the centrepiece of health reforms in China


A few news items from this week:

Medical tourism project for Hainan

Hainan province is building what it claims to  China's first special zone for medical travel, to try attract elderly people in search of  a cheap and clean place to spend their retirement.
The Boao Lecheng International Medical Travel Zone covers an area of about 20 square km and the provincial government will create preferential policies to attract overseas medical institutions including lower taxes for imported medical instruments and medicines. Medical tourism has been backed by China's health minister, Li Bin, who said  it "will make Chinese medical institutions take steps to adapt to international demand, so that the overall standard of medical service will be enhanced."

Private hospitals given preferential treatment

To encourage private hospitals, the government is to allow them to charge whatever prices they want and also force health insurance providers to cover treatment in private as well as public hospitals. New measures announced by the National Health and Family Planning Commission include relaxing price controls covering non-public hospital services. The decree also states that all private hospitals should be included in the country's public medical insurance schemes - so long as they reach the basic  standard for 'designated' hospitals -  and government departments should implement the same reimbursement policy for both public and private hospitals. Privately-owned hospitals have welcomed the measures, especially the decision to treat all hospitals equally regarding the reimbursement of patients' medical costs.

Foreign private doctors shown favourably on TV

Chinese TV is giving positive publicity to the handful of foreign doctors working in private clinics in China. In a programme this week CNTV says foreign doctors are "flowing" into China and helping to meet the needs of China's healthcare industry.
"Alongside providing advanced treatment for patients who can afford it ... they can contribute with their knowledge and experience, in Chinese hospitals." the programme stated.

Another doctor killed by patient

A doctor has been killed in Jiangsu reportedly by a 45-year-old male patient who was angry about the outcome of a circumcision procedure. Dr Shan Erhui was stabbed to death in the lounge of a hospital in Fengxian county on Tuesday. The suspect, Wang Fangli,  underwent circumcision in the hospital on March 30 and had antibiotic treatment afterwards, and was said to be dissatisfied with the treatment outcome and the medical expenses.

Volunteers sought to protect doctors from violence

Beijing hopes to recruit 1500 "Guardian Angel" volunteers to act as intermediaries between doctors and patients, defusing disagreements and smoothing over tensions, according to Xinhua. The plan seeks to use students and patients who will serve a one-year 'guardian' term in 21 hospitals in the capital.
“Patients will understand doctors better after talking with our volunteers,” said Feng Guosheng, head of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Hospital.

3 trillion yuan invested and doctors still underpaid

The financial journal Caixin has a feature on how doctors in China still have low incomes despite the 3 trillion invested in the health system by the government. The article says that unless reforms are introduced, medical workers will continue to be paid a pittance -  especially in small town and rural hospitals. It quotes a health ministry spokesman as saying that medical reforms will fail if the "key issue" of doctors' incomes is not solved. The government says it needs to fix the problem of low pay and doctors incomes being linked to prescribing of drugs. It aims to do this by allowing doctors to work in private clinics and to charge higher fees.

Public not happy with expensive private clinics

The Chinese government may see private clinics as the way of the future, but few ordinary citizens in Shanghai can afford their fees. There has been strong criticism of a new private hospital in Shanghai that charges patients up to 1,200 yuan to see a doctor, when it costs just 50 yuan to see a doctor in a public hospital. The opening of Shanghai International Medical Center (SIMC) is being criticised as a symbol of the move to cater only to the well-off in a society.

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