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Centers to channel medical resources to hinterland

Wang Xiaoyu
Updated: Jun 08,2021 10:01 AM    China Daily

China will channel more advanced medical resources from developed regions to relatively backward areas this year by establishing more regional medical centers in central and western provinces, an official said on June 7.

The first batch of 10 regional medical centers in a trial program in eight provincial-level regions was announced in November 2019. They are designed to focus on six major disease types including cancer and neurological and cardiovascular diseases, and each of them is closely linked to a major hospital in Beijing, Shanghai or other first-tier cities that provides guidance on construction and operation, the National Development and Reform Commission said.

"The core role of regional medical centers is to expand provision of high-quality healthcare resources and promote their balanced distribution," Sun Zhicheng, a senior administrator at the commission's department of social development, told a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office. "The first batch has all been put into use, yielding marked outcomes."

The regional center in Xiamen, Fujian province, which is paired with a top hospital in Shanghai, has brought 30 new technologies to local residents that were unavailable before. Very difficult surgeries now account for more than 65 percent of the total performed in the local hospital, Sun said.

"Another significant purpose of regional medical centers is to save people the trouble of traveling far from home to see a doctor and to enable them to access national-level healthcare services near home," he said. "Monitoring data shows that all 10 projects have played a role in retaining local and neighboring residents."

In Zhengzhou, Henan province, a hospital that has partnered up with Beijing Children's Hospital has been welcomed by local people. The number of Henan residents who visited outpatient clinics at the hospital in Beijing dropped by 63.1 percent last year, and the number of their hospitalizations went down by 51.3 percent, Sun said.

"The trial program will be expanded to include 12 other provinces coping with tight supplies of advanced medical services in central and western parts of the country," he said. "By the end of next year, construction of regional medical centers will cover all provincial-level regions."

The expansion of regional medical centers is part of China's efforts to boost the high-quality development of public hospitals, according to a guideline released by the State Council on June 4.

The guideline said that the country aims to refocus public hospitals on quality rather than scale in the next five years. More efforts will also be devoted to pushing forward basic and clinical research, improving the evaluation mechanism for healthcare workers, and deepening reforms of service pricing and insurance payment models.

Sun added that major projects in the public health sector will be launched in the next few years, including setting up a prevention and control base for major contagious diseases, a national-level emergency aid facility and beefing up regional disease prevention and control centers.