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Hospitals under fire for only after profits
Gao Qiang: New reform is needed.
Gao Qiang: New reform is needed.
   BEIJING, August 5 (Xinhuanet) -- In an advent of health service reform to be announced in China, the Ministry of Public Health in a rare move published a lengthy report of Minister Gao Qiang Thursday to slam "some medical institutions" for infringing upon public interests for economic gains.

    Earlier this week, the research center with the State Council, or the central government, released a report, which admitted the country's medical reform in the past decades as a "failure." And the Ministry of Health said the following day that it was drafting a new reform plan in collaboration with other government departments.

    One of the public woes on the health service sector was the soaring medical expenses in recent years. Gao said in the report that the mismanagement of a large number of health institutions are to blame, which holds back ordinary Chinese from seeking adequate and proper medical care.

    "Chinese medical institutions have been over-commercialized, relying chiefly on exorbitant charges for their maintenance and development," he acknowledged. "The goal for medical reform in the next step shall focus more on public interest and affordability of medical services for all."

    According to the ministry statistics, the nation's hospitals have been maintaining a double digit growth rate in income while receiving fewer patients each year. The public expense on medical bills have been growing faster than people's income in the past eight years.

    With 4.7 percent patients going to the hospitals managed by health departments in 2003 than 2000, health institutions still recorded a growth of 69.9 percent in their profits. Out of the profits, 49.8 percent were obtained from medical treatment and 38.7 percent from drug sales, while only less than 10 percent werederived from government funding.

    "Putting profit ahead of other functions by health institutions not only add burdens to patients, but seriously undermined the image of both medical personnel and public health departments," Gao said.

    Gao also suggested instituting a public health mechanismin in which state government should play a bigger part to guide hospitals to work for better welfare for the general public.

    Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the central government had reduced its funding to public health institutions so that the ratio of government input in China's medical and health work was lowered year by year. And less imput and supervision from the government has resulted in over-commercialization of hospital practices.

    Among the approximately 659.8 billion yuan (some 81 billion US dollars) of medical expense in 2003, 56 percent were paid by medical bills of individual patients, as against merely 17 percentby government input.

    "Patients' medical bills have been used to cover almost everything: medicinal costs, wages and subsidies of medical personnel, both doctors and nurses, new medical apparatuses and facilities of hospitals," Gao said.

    Gao also called for stepping up supervision on health institutions. "We are in need of specially-designated authorative institutions to enhance the supervision of public hospitals," he said. Enditem     

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