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Farmers Enjoy Cheap Neighborhood Medical Service

Assess qualification

To improve medical skills of township and village doctors, the country devised a personnel exchange scheme. East China's Anhui Province, for example, selects 1,000 experienced doctors annually from city hospitals to work in grassroots hospitals to train rural doctors. The same number of local doctors will go to top city hospitals for training.

China has also moved to assess the qualification of village doctors to improve the quality of the medicare service in the vast rural area.

Village doctors will be evaluated by county-level health bureaux on the basis of their medical techniques, professional ethics and feedback from villagers, according to the regulation on the management of village doctors' profession.

The regulation, posted on the Ministry of Health website, only applies to doctors who had already obtained a medicare license and practiced medical service in villages.

The doctors could continue their profession if they pass the assessment, according to the regulation, adding those who failed the first time could re-apply within six months.

Those who were disqualified for the second time and failed to apply to have them evaluated in time would have their licenses revoked, the regulation said.

The assessment is organized once every two years since a regulation on the village doctors' professional qualification took effect in 2004.

The early regulation required medical practitioners in the countryside to apply for licenses before continuing their practice.

Licensed applicants had to obtain a medicare diploma at or above vocational education, or have been working in grassroots medical institutions for at least 20 years, or qualified in medicare training offered by provincial-level health authorities.

China has about 1.02 million village doctors, accounting for a quarter of the country's medical population. Only 10 percent had qualifications.

Cover all

Despite the progress, there are still 9 percent of farmers who have not been covered and have to "endure the ailment and delay the serious disease," as they say themselves.

The government has planned to expand the scheme to cover all rural residents and double the funding level to 100 yuan per capita by the end of 2008, with a split of 20 yuan from the participant and 80 yuan from the governments, Health Minister Chen said.

"As the financing increases, reimbursement plans should be adjusted to ensure that more medical fees can be refunded for farmers to boost the attractiveness of the program," Chen stressed.

China is determined to improve the grassroots healthcare system with a bigger budget, said vice health minister Gao Qiang.

The government will allocate more than 2.7 billion yuan for the development of rural healthcare infrastructure next year, said Zhao Zilin, the Ministry of Health's financial department director.

The special fund will be used mainly for building hospitals for women and children and hospitals of traditional Chinese medicine as well as health centers.

The average cost for health centers will be 80,000 yuan, 380,000 yuan for hospitals for women and children hospitals, and 1million yuan for Chinese medicine hospitals.

The funding will also provide 21 types of medical equipment, such as B-ultrasonic scanners, sterilizers and ECG monitors.

With good medical equipment, quality doctors and reimbursement of some expenses to ease financial burdens, rural patients are naturally willing to go to hospital when falling ill. In farmer Gu Chaoshan's words, "We have the condition now."

To date, all townships have set up standardized hospitals in Quzhou County, which are equipped with first-aid beds, X-ray facilities. They offer clinic services in traditional Chinese medicine, healthcare, maternity, internal medicine, surgery and paediatric service. Each administrative village has a standardized clinic with college graduate doctors.

Gu was most happy at the new rural cooperative medical care program, as he recently got 1,300 yuan in reimbursement from the local medical insurance authority.

(Xinhua News Agency October 12, 2008)

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