By Roger Rao, GBI Analyst
Hospitals are the core of the Chinese medical system. It is therefore not surprising that hospital reform has been one of the five key pillars of healthcare reform from the very beginning- in Chinese medical reform guideline document issues in the spring of 2009 and officially initiated from March, 2010. However, it has been the area which has seen the least progress, even as progress was made in the other four key areas over the past two years. Currently, hospital reform is still in the pilot stage and has only been applied in selected cities (16 and 37 for national and provincial level pilots respectively).
On February 28th, the General office of the State Council issued the “2011 pilot work arrangements for hospital reform”, which was followed on March 19th by the MOH and Hospital Reform Office of the State Council meeting for 2011 pilot work of hospital reform. The work arrangements document laid out the following objectives: 1) Explore key pilots in changing the medical system; 2) Adjust and improve the government owned medical system; 3) Advance changes in regulations provide benefit/convenience to patients; 4) Motivate medical personnel, and 5) Promote development of non-government owned medical institutions. The subsequent meeting was held to help implement these work arrangements. The heads of MOH and Hospital Reform Office, their provincial counterparts, and prefectural counterparts from pilot cities attended this meeting. Forums in provinces and pilot cities were connected to the meeting via video-conference.
This is the first time that hospital reform policy was issued by General Office of the State Council and followed by a meeting to discuss implementation, reflecting newfound attention to the situation being paid by the central government. This change may be caused by the fact that, even though the medical reform has been initiated for over two years, the typical patient experience for visiting medical professionals in China remains grim. Demand for better services from hospitals has been mounting and it seems medical reform be accepted as successful only when problems surrounding hospitals are alleviated. So far, changes in regulations in this regard have reflected learnings from experience from pilot work in selected cities. Regulations designed to wean hospitals from reliance on drug profits, support grassroots medical institutions, allow physician practice on multiple sites, and promote setup of non-government owned hospitals have been discussed before, but may finally see implementation. Given the renewed, but still preliminary, efforts in advancing programs and visible concern and attention from top administrators, it is possible that 2011 will finally see discernable progress in hospital reform.