Business / Policy Watch

Overseas-invested hospitals to push China's healthcare reforms

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-09-01 11:17

BEIJING - The Chinese government's green-lighting of wholly overseas-funded private hospitals this week will have brought a smile to the faces of people like Benny Li.

Li, a senior manager of a US-based Internet company in Beijing, had not considered private treatment until he felt the huge discrepancy in service level between overseas-invested hospitals and local counterparts in 2012.

One day that year, Li rushed to a local hospital after injuring his head in an accident. Pressing the bleeding wound with a hand, he waited 40 minutes, along with several others suffering burns or cuts, before having three stitches put in his head.

"An old nurse kept telling us, 'No hurry, you won't die anyway, '" he recalled. Frustrated, days later Li for the first time went to a US-invested hospital in the Chinese capital, for a check of his head wound.

"The doctor was amazed. He said he had never seen such sparse stitches, and carefully redid the job," Li said. Since then, the 34-year-old has been a die-hard fan of the hospital.

"In this hospital, you don't need to line up for hours to have a five-minute talk with a weary doctor, or speculate on how much kickback he may get from the medicine he prescribes," he said.

On Wednesday, the Chinese government said it will allow private hospitals solely owned by overseas investors to open in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan, all in the country's developed eastern and southern regions.

Authorities and analysts believe that the opening up of China's healthcare sector will boost the development of more high-end medical services and inspire public hospitals to up their game.

In late July, German healthcare provider Artemed Group signed an agreement to establish a hospital in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ). It will be the first wholly overseas-funded medical institution in the FTZ, launched last September as part of China's opening-up drive.

Currently, overseas-funded hospitals operating in the country are mostly joint ventures with Chinese investors. Only two private hospitals, one in Shanghai and the other in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, are solely funded by Taiwan and Hong Kong investors respectively.

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