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Chinese Hospital urged to cater to the poor

Public hospitals in China should focus on providing affordable medical care for the common man and not just cater to the demands of the wealthy minority, the country's health minister said.//

Hospitals are spending too much public money to buy expensive medical equipment, trying to keep pace with developed countries, and offering exclusive services that few can afford, Health Minister Gao Qiang said at a national health conference Saturday, says a Xinhua report.

"This year the Ministry of Health will tighten the control over the expansion of large hospitals and their purchasing of large equipment with bank loans and public funds," Gao said.

He urged hospitals and local health authorities to focus on providing affordable medical care to the less well-off: farmers, the unemployed, migrant workers, the elderly and children.

"The patients in financial difficulties or in critical condition must be treated first instead of being charged first," Gao said.

He said that luxury beds at public hospitals should account for no more than 10 percent of the total.

Many hospitals have increasingly focused on profits since China started to reform its public health system over 20 years ago, slashing funding to hundreds of hospitals.

Most hospitals rely on drug sales for the bulk of their revenue - a key factor behind the overuse of antibiotics and other medications - and many also order expensive, unnecessary tests and surgical procedures to help boost fees.

Millions of people, especially those in the rural areas, complain that they can no longer afford to see a doctor while state media have reported that catastrophic illnesses and injuries are often the single biggest cause of families falling into poverty.


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