An Introduction to China's Medical Care System
In China, there are 1.5 doctors and 2.4 hospital beds for every one thousand people. Metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing all have a variety of advanced specialized hospitals and numerous general hospitals. There are departments of oncology, cardio cerebrovascular disease, ophthalmology, stomatology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and infectious diseases. Medium-sized cities in every province and autonomous region all have well-equipped general hospitals or specialized hospitals. A three-level medical network of prevention and healthcare has been established in the rural areas being comprised of institutions at the county, township and village level. Counties now have a central hospital, townships have a community hospital, and villages have clinics. The establishment and improvement of medical and health care institutions together with the cultivation of good sanitation practices has led to changes in the causes of death in China. In the past, deaths were mainly caused by infectious diseases and various parasites, while now deaths are mainly caused by malignant tumors, cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases. The cause and rate of death is now close to that of developed countries. The health status for both the urban and rural population has improved significantly. In addition, the average life span for China is now at 71.8 years of age. This number is 5 years higher than the world average.
"Prevention first " is one of the important principles of China's healthcare program. Disease prevention and healthcare institutions have been established in the country's administrative regions at various levels. Their role is that of sanitation supervision and disease prevention. An example would be the Hygiene and Epidemic Prevention Stations. These institutions work together to form a national network of sanitation supervision and epidemic prevention. In order to eradicate or control epidemics and local diseases that seriously threaten people's health, the National People's Congress and the State Council have issued a variety of statutes. Examples of these would be the Infectious Disease Prevention Act, the Action Plan for 1995 National Polio Eradication, and the Program Guidelines for 2000 National Eradication of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). As a result, disease prevention has been improved and a notable effect achieved.
In May of 2003, the State Council issued the statute of Regulations on the Urgent Handling of Public Health Emergencies. This shows that the established system for handling public health emergencies is now on its way to becoming a part of the country's legal system. The government will invest an enormous amount of money to establish a system for treating and curing illnesses resulting from public health emergencies. The funds will be used to strengthen and improve emergency centers responsible for handling urgent situations, as well as the medical curative system and the hospital information management system. The government will also strengthen its cooperation with the World Health Orgnization.
In recent years, the desire for reform of the urban medical care system and community construction has had an influence on community health services. Community health services, which have generally provided prevention, general treatment and health care for individual cities, have now expanded to a majority of cities. They are receiving more and more welcome from local residents. Community services have adapted to urbanization, ageing of the population, changes in the kinds of diseases, and changes of social status, providing practical schemes for the improvement of medical services. At present, a community health service network provides for the country's large and medium sized cities. A Community Health Service Center acts as the main service provider and other basic medical institutions provide supplementary service.
Since 2003, China has begun establishing a new type of cooperative medical service in the rural areas. The system features comprehensive arrangements for serious diseases and is financed through individual payments, collective support from the community and government reimbursement. When a person falls sick and requires a stay in the hospital, a participant in this system can receive reimbursement through a variety of means for any medical expenses. The plan is that by 2010, this system will be used to provide medical care for the whole country. In the meantime, China will establish and implement this system of medical aid in the rural areas and provide medical care to families in these poverty-stricken communities. By the end of 2005, this system will be the well-developed standard for the country. Funds to meet the needs of participants in the system will be provided through government finance, donations from members of society, and many other channels. The funds raised will be used only to provide medical aid to those in rural communities.