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New prospects for Chinese village doctors

(Xinhua)    09:25, March 27, 2015

KUNMING, March 26 -- As veteran village doctor Deng Qiandui approaches retirement, he dreams of a pension scheme similar to that enjoyed by his urban counterparts.

Deng, 51, who's highest level of education was junior middle school, became a doctor at the Lamadi Village in the Nujiang Valley of underdeveloped southwestern Yunnan Province after six months of training at the township hospital in 1983.

As one of the two doctors in the village, Deng provides basic medical services for 1,030 people but he has not been covered by the social insurance system like his urban and township counterparts.

According to Deng, a township hospital doctor receives a monthly pension of about 2,200 yuan (358 U.S. dollars) after retirement, more than twice what he earns now. In 2009, he earned a little more than 200 yuan every month. Government subsidies have since increase remarkably but are still far from enough.

Deng is one of more than 1 million village doctors in China who have little professional training and are poorly funded. The humble salary and lack of pension have stopped many young people entering into the profession, making medical services in remote areas even more difficult to access for villagers.

For most people in the Lamadi Village, Deng's clinic is the only choice when they get sick, with the closest township hospital four and half hours away by foot through mountain paths.

To ensure a quality medical service in rural areas, the State Council, China's cabinet, released a document for better treatment of village doctors Monday.

The document ensures one doctor for every 1,000 rural residents. These rural doctors will get extra training for free, better opportunities to further education, preference in their future careers, along with higher pay and pensions.

Village doctors are irreplaceable in China as there are still 800 million people living in the countryside, said Lu Lin, head of the Yunnan provincial disease control and prevention center.

"The root of the crowds of patients in urban hospitals is the lack of effective grassroots medical service," said Lu.

For Deng, a government recognition, decent salary and a pension equal to his township counterparts is what he needs most.

If Deng retires this year, he would get only 60 yuan pension every month like his fellow villagers.

"It is unfair for us whose work is no different with urban and township doctors," said Deng.

In some cases, their job is more difficult, he said, recalling an instance when he had to travel across a steel rope hanging above a river to reach one patients' home.

Deng hopes the government can set up detailed arrangements for them as soon as possible.

To his surprise, Deng's son, 29, a migrant worker in the booming city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, wants to come back to be a village doctor.

As village doctors seem to have more prospects after the government push, Deng agreed and decided to send him to a technical secondary school in the Nujiang Prefecture to study medicine.

"In two years he will graduate," Deng said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Yao Chun)

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