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Survey: Healthcare in rural areas problematic
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-03 06:35

GUANGZHOU: After receiving intravenous drip for seven days and spending more than 2,000 yuan (US$250) on treatment, Zheng Wenshi requested to be discharged from the hospital.

Zheng, who was diagnosed to contract acute pneumonia in late December, is now recuperating at home after his inpatient treatment which cost nearly as much as a six-month pension.

"Despite I still have some cough, I prefer to stay at home to wait for completely recovery because the medical fees are expensive and the medical facilities in the hospital are really poor," said Zheng.

Zheng, 70, a retired worker in Nanfeng Township in western Guangdong's city of Zhaoqing, is one of many people who often refuse to see doctors or avoid staying in hospitals for an extended period in the rural areas of South China's Guangdong Province.

More than 42 per cent of the rural population does not see a doctor when they become sick, a recent survey found, and 26 per cent of the patients who need to stay in hospital for treatment chose to leave after seeing doctors.

Some attribute this attitude to poor medical facilities and expensive medical charges in the rural areas. The province's medical insurance system covers less than 10 per cent of the rural population.

Allocation of medical resources is not rational in Guangdong, despite the province's annually expanding investment in medical industry, sources from Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Health revealed.

As much as 48 per cent of Guangdong's investment in medical sector last year went to Guangzhou, capital of the province, and cities in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, according to Zhang Shousheng, an official from the bureau.

About 80 per cent of the province's medical resources are channelled into these cities, he said. The major hospitals in big cities often enjoy brisk business while the small hospitals and clinics in rural counties and townships usually have few patients, said Zhang.

To help overcome rural medical problems, the Guangdong provincial government decided to increase its medical input in the rural areas in effort to improve the medical facilities there during 2006.

More senior doctors from big cities and medical groups will be encouraged to work in the rural areas to provide local residents better medical service, Zhang said.

Meanwhile all the hospitals will be required to introduce public bidding system to purchase medicines and medical equipment to further reduce the prices of medicines.

The hospitals will be under strict supervision to prevent collecting extra medical charges and price hikes in the years ahead, Zhang added.

(China Daily 01/03/2006 page3)

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