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Experts calls for community hospitals,family doctors

(CRI Online)

15:00, April 15, 2013

Health authorities have been working to introduce a family doctor model at the community level as part of China's healthcare reform.

Experts believe the new model may ease the strain currently placed on large hospitals, but they also propose community-level hospitals and the doctors working there require improvement. They advise establishing a team of medical experts to provide family doctor services.

In China, it is common for people who live elsewhere to journey to Beijing and try to make an appointment with a famous doctor at a large hospital after falling sick.
Cao Zeyi, vice dean of the Medical School at Tsinghua University and former deputy Minister of Health, says the current situation would only further strengthen larger hospitals while community-level hospitals deteriorate.

"With limited access to famous doctors, China lacks a system composed of hospitals at different levels, which would allow for the transfer of a patient from a lower-level hospital to undergo treatment at a higher-level one. Now, in China, I've noticed that big hospitals continuously expand, increasing their amount of advanced equipment and better-trained medical professionals."

Last year, a State Council plan stated that by 2020, there should be two to three general practitioners at grassroots-level clinics to serve every 10,000 residents; taking up the role of family doctors. The plan indicates the dual role of doctors in community-level hospitals; giving people health tips and providing patients with proper medical treatment.

However, Han Xiaohong, CEO of a private healthcare company thinks the aim of putting one doctor in charge of a large number of residents is impractical.

"The demand for family physicians is big in China, since everyone hopes that with a doctor nearby they could easily recover from common diseases. However, in China, family physicians are usually those doctors from specialized hospitals. First, they are not general practitioners who know every aspect of medicine. Second, a doctor would be required to serve some 10,000 residents. This is impractical and in my opinion, the number of households that a family doctor should be in charge of should have a much narrower limit."

In Beijing and Shanghai, the new family doctor model implemented in selected districts has been welcomed by locals. But due to a doctor shortage, family doctors are only able to serve targeted groups such as the elderly, babies and pregnant women.

Cao Zeyi explains the jump in the number of China's senior citizens demands qualified rather than substandard doctors in community-level clinics.

"Firstly, doctors should offer senior citizens guidance on the right approaches related to maintaining good health. Meanwhile, hospitals at the grassroots level should work well to ensure that the elderly are provided with proper medical care services. These community-level hospitals should employ experienced doctors who can tell common ailments apart and have frequently encountered disease before."

Meanwhile, Han Xiaohong also proposes family doctors should actually be made up of a team of medical experts within community-level hospitals.

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