CHINA / National

China seeks new deal in radical health reforms
Updated: 2006-03-18 19:31

China is planning to change its radical market-oriented health reforms that have attracted much criticism.

Ge Yanfeng, an official with the China Development Research Center (CDRC) under the State Council, said on Saturday that the improper use of market mechanisms has resulted in a gross injustice in the distribution of health resources.

Speaking at the preparatory meeting of the China Development Forum in Beijing, Ge said that under the reforms, lower-end health institutions, such as rural hospitals and community hospitals in urban areas, are struggling for survival.

Referring to the results of a study jointly carried out by the CDRC and the World Health Organization (WHO), Ge said the trend of commercializing China's health reforms is wrong and must be redressed.

Henk Bekedam, WHO representative in China, said inadequate input and interference from the government is responsible for the inefficient use of China's limited health resources.

He acknowledged that there are currently 11 government departments playing different roles in health services, but there is no overall coordinator.

He suggested the State Council should set up a special organization to coordinate all these departments and the government should also draw up a long-term plan for the health sector and clearly define its roles.

Gao Weizhong, an official with the Ministry of Health, said if the tendency of profit-seeking in health institutions is not stopped, generations of future Chinese doctors could become victims.

The government must play a decisive role in future health reforms, if China is to provide proper health services to its 1.3 billion people, he said.

According to Ge's estimate, the building of a new health system that will make health services available and affordable to everyone will cost anywhere between 19 billion to 25 billion U.S. dollars, or around 1.5 percent of China's gross domestic product in 2005. This is an affordable plan for China.