Improvement in community health care and the establishment of a universal health care system are key to revamping the country's troubled system, experts said over the weekend.
More than 300 senior officials, researchers and representatives from different sectors of the nation's health care industry gathered at Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School to discuss "New Horizons for China's Medical Reform."
Although the government has continued to pump in cash into the health care system expenditure reached 66 billion yuan (US$8.25 billion) in 2003, double the spending in 1998 a common public complaint is that "seeing a doctor is difficult and expensive."
Authorities last year concluded that reform of the health care system over the past two decades was "basically unsuccessful," and urged a new template.
Regarding the future health service model, many speakers at the forum stressed that accessibility to health services and efficiency are the key issues.
Shi Guang, a professor at the China Health Economics Institute of the Ministry of Health, said the future health system should be composed of a primary health care system for public health and basic medical services, and secondary and tertiary medical institutes mainly for emergency and critical care.
Experts said the government should channel annual health care outlays more than 5 per cent of the GDP on public health services and government-run hospitals, instead of covering most medical institutes which can rely more on social support and investment.
On average, the subsidy from the government accounts for less than 8 per cent of public hospitals' revenue. So they rely on income from drugs and diagnostics, which results in doctors often over-prescribing drugs and expensive medical tests.
Dr Henk Bekedam, the WHO's China representative, advised the nation to follow the European model of family doctors serving as gatekeepers of residents' health in the community health care system.