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Shaanxi cuts health care bills for poor
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-30 06:00

XI'AN: The poverty-stricken and laid-off in Shaanxi Province will enjoy cheaper medical treatment from tomorrow.

"A 'hospital wards for the poor' policy is being implemented on Thursday (December 1) in seven hospitals directly under the control of our bureau," said Li Hongguang, director of Shaanxi Provincial Health Bureau at a press conference on Monday in Xi'an.

According to the new policy, a total of 264 hospital beds will be provided for people with financial difficulties, he added.

Laid-off workers and disadvantaged migrants will be among those to receive cheaper medical treatment with a 20 per cent discount on hospital expenses, the director explained.

However, the director stressed, the quality of medical services is guaranteed.

To keep costs down, doctors are also being directed to only use necessary medicines, the provincial health director said.

In Shaanxi Provincial People's Hospital, one of the seven pilot hospitals, costs for operating on heart disease patients will be halved for those with financial difficulties, and doctors who use large quantities of expensive medicines will be warned, Gao Jianmin, deputy director of the hospital, told China Daily.

The provincial health director said the measure is the first step in solving the problem of people not being able to afford to visit a doctor. If successful, the trial in the seven hospitals will be introduced to all hospitals in the province.

Local people have welcomed the measure and hope it can help lighten the financial burden.

"I am very glad to hear the news, but worry if the measure can be carried out properly," Liu Xiansheng, a local resident said.

Shaanxi, an inland northwestern province, has some 190,000 laid-off workers and 1.2 million rural dwellers living in poverty.

The province has set its own standards for "people with financial difficulties" those who earn less than 500 yuan (US$62) per month in urban areas and those who have a net annual income of no more than 700 yuan (US$86) in rural regions.

(China Daily 11/30/2005 page3)

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