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China’s State Council puts focus on community care

Stepping into one of China’s more popular hospitals can be intimidating. Like massive beehives, they’re often overcrowded by patients coming from near and far, determined to get the best treatment possible. But this could soon change. China’s State Council has launched a pilot program in a number of cities and provinces, encouraging people to see doctors in their own communities.

Zhang Xianliang, in the southeast city of Xiamen, suffers from diabetes. Every two weeks, he comes here, at this community health center, for a health check-up.

“It’s much better than big hospitals. Big hospitals are far away, and the commute puts more pressure on traffic. And you have to line up to get a registration number. You have to wait a whole morning to get medicine.”

It’s estimated that of all the outpatients who made the trip to city hospitals, 70 percent were patients with common or chronic ailments.

The central government wants those with more severe health problems to go to big hospitals. That’s about 20 percent of patients.

Those with chronic problems like hypertension are encouraged to use community health centers... where the level of care on offer has been upgraded.

“Before, the list of medicines available in the community hospital was not as comprehensive as that in big hospitals. Now what’s available in big hospitals can be found also here. I haven’t been to a big hospital for over a year.”

“We should spare no effort in promoting the service of general practitioners into urban communities. General practitioners should go door to door offering health and chronic disease services. We should help transfer those who need to be transferred to bigger hospitals, and they should return to community hospitals for rehabilitation,” Sun Zhigang with State Council Medical Reform Leading Group said.

This patient in southwest China’s Chengdu just received a surgery to treat a blood blockage in his lungs.

The surgery was performed in a mid-level hospital close to his home... and cost a third less than at a top hospital.

This has been made possible by a scheme that enables doctors at big hospitals to work in smaller ones.

“Before we had to transfer this kind of patient to other hospitals, because his case is highly risky,” Doctor Cao Lei with Chengdu Qingbaijiang Renmin Hospital said.

China launched a pilot medical reform in public hospitals in 17 cities in 2010. The guideline stipulates the reform should cover all of the country’s 6,800 public hospitals by 2017.