China aims to treat its healthcare problem, as the government recently announced it has plans to double the number of doctors available to its people, an achievement which should be accomplished by 2020.
China is struggling with a healthcare system that often has patients waiting in endless queues in order to get access to medical services, which are already scarce in the country’s poor rural areas. Beijing estimates that the situation will significantly improve by 2020, when the officials announced they will have 2 doctors available for each thousand citizens.
The figure is practically double the amount doctors of what China announced at the end of 2013. The government also mentioned the healthcare system will see a general overhaul, as more support personnel will be added, such as nurses.
In the five-year plan made public on Monday by China’s State Council, the government acknowledged the country is going through a serious healthcare problem. “Healthcare resources overall are insufficient, quality is too low, our structures are badly organized and service systems fragmented. Parts of the public hospital system have also become bloated,” the council report stated.
The small number of doctors across China might pose a threat to the social stability in the country if the new plan does not bring some results soon. Hospitals in urban centers are usually teeming with patients, and tensions often arise between the overextended medical personnel and the frustrated people waiting in line.
The patients seldom complain doctors are treating them with arrogance instead of offering medical assistance. On the other hand, doctors argue that China’s healthcare system offers them low salaries that do not motivate them enough for what they go through.
Beijing also intends to make digital databases available by 2020, which should allow keeping electronic health records for the entire population. In order to do so, the Chinese government resorts to the help of tech companies such as Alibaba Group, who incidentally has a healthcare subsidiary called Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd.
China offers one of the fastest growing healthcare markets in the world right now, and giant drug manufacturers are drooling at the possibility of getting a share of it. Healthcare spending in China is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2020. The State Council’s report suggested that during this timeline China is prepared to open its gates to foreign private investors. Officials are convinced the public healthcare system needs larger involvement from private sector. “The role of public health institutions is too big, with the number of beds accounting for around 90 percent of the total,” the report concluded.
China’s endemic healthcare problem is one of the main concerns on President Xi Jinping’s agenda. Xi promised firmer government involvement to get rid of the corruption that currently plagues the country’s medical system. The report does not specifically say so, but it is also expected that China will extend its health insurance coverage. Currently, most Chinese patients have to pay extra to get the health services they really need.
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