China tells patients to go local amid healthcare overhaul


Sun, Sep 13, 2015 - Page 4

The Chinese State Council yesterday said it will push patients to seek medical treatment locally in a bid to overhaul an overburdened healthcare system where wide gaps between urban and rural care often mean people travel hundreds of kilometers to seek help in cities.

Beijing is hoping that by 2017 all patients with serious illnesses will receive treatment within their own county, the State Council said in a statement laying out various ways to improve access and lower healthcare fees.

China’s healthcare reform drive could reduce steep costs for its citizens, who often save up large “rainy day” funds in case a family member falls ill.

The drive is also a lure for investors and firms betting billions of dollars on China opening up a market set to be worth around US$1.3 trillion by 2020.

“We are working hard to ensure that people can get treatment where they are,” the statement said.

However, the government is facing big challenges in its drive to overhaul the unpopular healthcare system that is blighted by crowded hospitals, corruption and simmering tension between patients and staff.

The statement added that China plans to increase training and incentives for rural doctors, reduce public hospitals’ reliance on drug sales and ensure that health insurance schemes for serious illness should cover over 50 percent of patients’ costs this year.