Beijing Review: Rural healthcare has made headway over the past decade

Beijing Review: Rural healthcare has made headway over the past decade

BEIJING, July 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — This is a news report from Beijing Review:

A bird’s-eye view of the Xigaze People’s Hospital in Xigaze, Tibet Autonomous Region (ZHANG WEI)
A bird’s-eye view of the Xigaze People’s Hospital in Xigaze, Tibet Autonomous Region (ZHANG WEI)

Linquan, a county in Fuyang, Anhui Province, rose out of poverty in April 2020. The county has a large number of cancer patients but, in the past, had no oncology department. Patients had to travel to larger cities for treatment, which increased the overall expenses. However, the situation has changed thanks to a paired assistance program, which started in 2016.

Under the program, Peking University First Hospital in Beijing sent cancer experts to help the county establish its own oncology department at Linquan People’s Hospital. Today the hospital in the county has mastered multiple cancer treatment technologies and is able to carry out the treatments independently. 

Paired assistance is one of the measures China has taken to improve medical care in rural areas. The National Health Commission (NHC) has helped 1,172 hospitals in underdeveloped counties establish partnerships with urban public hospitals. 

Health is the foundation of poverty alleviation and common prosperity, He Jinguo, Director of the NHC’s Department of Finance and head of the commission’s Rural Revitalization Office, said at a press conference on the improvement of healthcare in rural areas in the past decade on May 24. China accomplished its goal of eradicating absolute poverty as scheduled by the end of 2020.

From 2015 to 2020, the Central Government spent 1.4 trillion yuan ($209.7 billion) to support the development of medical care in 25 provincial-level regions with relatively large poor populations, with expenditure growing 11.6 percent on average each year.

The medical service network in rural areas has been improved, making it more convenient for residents to receive medical treatment near their homes, Chu Hongming, another NHC official, said. A 15-minute medical service circle whereby patients can arrive at a medical institution within 15 minutes of walking has been formed. As of late last year, there were 23,000 county-level medical institutions, 35,000 township hospitals and 599,000 village clinics nationwide. 

Township and village medical institutions have been guided to improve their service abilities, with over 90 percent of patients now receiving treatment in their own counties.

Family doctor programs, a new model in which qualified medical workers offer customized services such as health consultation and evaluation to the families registered with them, have been available since 2016. As of late 2021, there were 1.435 million family doctors in China, providing residents with basic medical care and health management services.  

Although they have shed poverty, a number of counties remain economically weak, He Jinguo said. Last year, the Central Government identified 160 counties in west China as key targets for assistance. The policies, funds and programs for supporting the development of healthcare in these areas will remain stable.

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