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Advisers seeking a remedy for private hospitals

By Shan Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-07 09:14

Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu called for more opportunities and government support for the development of private hospitals to foster a larger medical market, which can help meet rising public demand for quality medical services.

Huang, who is also a CPPCC National Committee member, made the remarks on Wednesday on the sidelines of the annual session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

Statistics from the ministry show China now has more than 8,000 private hospitals, mostly specialized ones.

"A proportion of public hospitals should be reformed under the government leadership, repositioned and enabled to operate in accordance with market economy norms," Huang said.

Experiences in many countries and regions have shown that a medical service provision is more efficient when it is mainly delivered by private hospitals, he added.

He cited Taiwan as an example, where private hospitals account for 76 percent of the total.

But he also conceded that, at the moment, private hospitals on the Chinese mainland are hardly in a position to compete with their public counterparts.

Zhao Ping, a CPPCC National Committee member and former president of the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said most private hospitals are small and inefficient.

"Worse, some driven by profit resorted to improper practices, which seriously tarnished the reputation of private hospitals as a whole," he said.

Zhao suggested the government should only support large and qualified private hospitals.

Huang, however, thought otherwise.

According to him, the mainland lacks policies encouraging the free flow of doctors at different hospitals, regardless of whether they are private or public, and that has frustrated the development of private hospitals.

To address that, "the authorities will introduce a mechanism encouraging willing doctors to practice at private hospitals", he noted.

At present, most mainland physicians prefer public hospitals as they offer greater opportunities for promotion and academic advancement.

"Favorable measures should be introduced to encourage doctors to practice at private hospitals in order to further boost their size and quality," he said. Public hospitals are unable to fully meet the public's demand for medical services, he added.

Huang also pointed out that the current reform featuring government subsidies of loss-making public hospitals could hardly be sustainable.

He suggested the government should only fully support large State-level public hospitals and grassroots medical institutions to ensure a degree of public service.

"Leave the rest to the market and welcome social capital," he said.

To date, despite government rules and measures to encourage the development of private hospitals, they still face great hurdles particularly in registration, social recognition, finances and recruitment.

He Wei, a private hospital owner and a CPPCC National Committee member, said, "I appreciate government policies favoring our development but they shouldn't just be lip service."

Zhong Nanshan, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an NPC deputy, said, "Private hospitals should be encouraged while being well regulated in the meantime to ensure quality medical services."

But in his opinion, private hospitals should mainly target the high-end market.

According to Huang, only 10 percent of public hospitals' operational costs are funded by the government. They have to earn the remainder mainly through drug sales.

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