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Rural Clinics to Get New Investment for Better Equipment

Clinics and hospitals in China's rural areas and state farms will get 4.8 billion yuan (US$702 million) this year to improve infrastructures, a Ministry of Health spokesman said on Sunday.

The money is part of a 21.7-billion-yuan investment plan announced by the government in 2006 with aims to overhaul the nation's rural health care network by 2010.

The investment will be spent on new buildings and medical equipment in more than 13,000 clinics and hospitals in villages, townships, and state farms and forestry farms, said the spokesman Mao Qun'an.

He said the funding was made possible after the State Council, the country's Cabinet, last week decided to allocate 100 billion yuan from central budget before the end of this year to support infrastructure project of cheap housing, education, health care, employment, and environmental protection.

Of the 4.8 billion yuan, 2.621 billion yuan will be used on 7,300 infrastructure projects, which cover 26 county-level hospitals, 1,610 township medical centers and 5,547 village clinics, he said.

Another 2.179 billion yuan will be used to establish or improve over 6,000 clinics in state farms, forestry farms and sea islands.

"The improvement of rural health care infrastructure will be conducive to the prevention and control of major diseases in rural areas, in order to help improve health conditions of rural residents," Mao said.

Despite China's economic progress, the development of health care services in vast rural areas have lagged behind because most medical facilities and personnel are in cities.

Poorly-equipped rural clinics and a shortage of medical staff have restricted the quality and availability of health care for rural residents. Some are impoverished by huge cost of medical treatment because they have to travel to cities to seek treatment.

"The investment on rural healthcare network should play a significant role in preventing it," Mao said,

China has built over 32,000 clinics and hospitals in 35,000 villages and townships since 2004.

"Eventually every village or township will have at least one clinic," Mao said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2008)

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