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City Health Centers to Provide Better Care

A program to expand community medical care services will provide better and more affordable treatment to city residents.

This was the message from a State Council conference over the weekend, which mapped out guidelines to develop neighborhood urban health centers across the country.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called on local authorities and health departments to step up efforts on community health work and make it easier for residents to seek medical treatment.

Vice Premier Wu Yi told the meeting that it was important to tap the limited medical resources and make it easier for patients to see doctors.

Development of health work should take into full account people's practical problems and try best to provide them with convenient and cheaper medical services, the vice premier said.

A systematic network involving medical insurance, production and distribution of medicines, medical aid and education should be improved, she said.

China has 3,400 community medical service centers and nearly 12,000 community clinics in its cities, according to the Ministry of Health.

Such health centers provide basic medical service in the neighborhoods, especially for elderly and disabled people and patients with chronic diseases.

Residents are encouraged to visit these centers before they flock to big hospitals.

"Patients with chronic illnesses need long-term care and stable service, and we can provide them," Yang Zhenwei, head of Jianwai Community Medical Station in Beijing, said yesterday.

The station has two physicians and three nurses; and treats about 40 patients a day.

"We plan to improve our facilities with government funds and prolong working hours to make it more convenient for residents," Yang said.

According to Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, the current community health services cannot cope with demand.

Many patients do not trust the service provided by community health centers and make a beeline for big hospitals even for minor illnesses.

So the government needs to assure the public that the clinics provide almost the same basic medical care as big hospitals, in addition to added services like disease prevention and family planning guidance, Mao said.

He said it is important to ensure that these clinics are for public welfare rather than private profits, adding "it's a huge challenge."

A comprehensive community health service system is expected to be in place by 2010 in all major Chinese cities.

(China Daily February 28, 2006)

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