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Urban Doctors to Provide Rural Services

A 10,000-strong team from urban medical facilities will provide service and training at county hospitals in impoverished areas within three years, according to Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang.

Gao was speaking on Monday at a conference attended by top medical administrators from around the nation.

The project will start this June and cover 600 hospitals in poverty-stricken counties in the central and western regions. Ten percent of the target hospitals will be traditional Chinese medicine facilities.

The plan is to dispatch five senior doctors from urban hospitals to each targeted hospital, each to serve for at least half a year.

"The central government plans to subsidize each doctor with 24,000 yuan (US$2,900) a year," said Gao.

The doctors will be expected to treat patients on a daily basis as well as to train staff and improve hospital management.

Another parallel project will begin this year in northwest China's Gansu Province.

In Gansu, a number of medical staff from hospitals above county level will go to work for a year in clinics at lower levels.

Wang Yancheng, head of the Gansu Provincial Health Bureau, said, "We plan to launch it in 360 clinics."

In China, more than 70 percent of medical resources -- including hospitals, medications and doctors -- are enjoyed by urban residents, who make up about only 30 percent of the country's total population.

Nearly 80 percent of the rural population in China lacks any type of medical insurance.

"Most of them are paying medical bills by themselves, bearing the physical, mental and economic burdens," said Gao, adding that the Ministry of Health  will target rural areas in 2005 and expand medical coverage to include more residents of those areas.

(China Daily January 11, 2005)

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