The authorities are planning to institutionalize the so-called
"long march of healthcare into the countryside" as they work to
bring quality medical services to the country's underprivileged
To support the spread of healthcare to rural areas, the
ministries of Health and Finance initiated a "patching scheme" in
2005, under which some 10,000 urban health professionals are to be
dispatched to rural medical institutions nationwide by the end of
next year to give local people better access to healthcare.
"The assistance scheme envisions a long-term reallocation of the
nation's healthcare resources, which have long been biased towards
urban areas, to improve rural medical care and provide better staff
at rural hospitals," Minister of Health Gao Qiang said yesterday in
Beijing during a teleconference to discuss rural medical care
"We are working on a plan to make the program a long-term
mechanism to ensure the nation's 800 million rural residents get
equal access to public health services," Gao said.
He also called on the country's healthcare professionals to
provide a high standard of service whether they were working in
cities or the countryside.
"To be an inalienable part of the nation's integrated public
healthcare system, urban medical institutions and their health
workers cannot shirk the responsibility to help improve rural
medical care service," he said.
In its initial phase, the scheme covered nearly 600 county-level
public hospitals and 1,300 grassroots clinics at townships and
villages. Up to 10,000 urban medical professionals have been sent
to such facilities for rotating one-year terms.
Their chief aim has been to offer high-quality medical services
to rural people and help train eligible rural healthcare workers,
said Vice-Minister of Health Ma Xiaowei.
In the past two years, roughly two million people living in
rural areas nationwide have gained access to high-standard medical
services thanks to assistance from urban doctors. Up to 560,000
rural medical workers have received training under the program.
In addition, the program has helped lower medical costs for
rural patients, who no longer have to trek long distances to
receive quality care at urban hospitals.
Nearly 90 percent of the rural residents covered by the scheme
so far have said they were satisfied with the healthcare services
now on offer at local hospitals, according to a survey by the
Ministry of Health last year.
"With the improved service and slashed costs, our rural
compatriots, who never ask for much, surely would applaud the
program," said Gao. "However, despite their satisfaction, we
medical workers cannot show any complacence because in general
rural medical care is still a far cry from what is on offer in
To close the healthcare gap between rural and urban areas and
better serve rural patients, Gao said he would deepen cooperation
with the Ministry of Finance, which funded the scheme alongside
(China Daily April 4, 2007)