Shake-up for health system to tackle graft

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am

The mainland's scandal-ridden health system will be overhauled in an attempt to purge the sector of corruption, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.

Driven by increasing public anger over the system, the campaign would be carried out through 'retrospection and self-correction, and mainly by education', according to ministry spokesman Mao Qunan. 'Each person in the medical system will attend information sessions [about the regulations] and each will be educated ... to increase medical workers' consciousness of the need to abide by the law and practise with integrity,' Mr Mao said.

He said the moral campaign that was due to start next month would be accompanied by a crackdown on 'important cases' and the 'establishment of a long-term effective mechanism', expected to 'ultimately eradicate illegal deals and bribery'.

Six mainland medical associations, headed by the Chinese Hospital Association, responded to the campaign by signing an open letter calling for the country's six million medical workers to conduct 'strict self-discipline' and 'refuse red packets, kickbacks and commercial bribery'.

But practitioners say similar 'education campaigns' carried out in the past had achieved 'nothing definite'. A doctor from one of the mainland's largest facilities, Beijing's Tiantan Hospital, said: 'It will not work because fundamentally doctors and pharmaceutical salespeople are part of overlapping interest groups.

'Kickbacks are rampant because most doctors' salaries are unreasonably meagre due to the lack of financial support from the central government. The best the campaign can do is to drive the deals underground - for instance, pharmaceutical representatives sometimes transfer money to the buyer's account without having to meet.

'Or, the campaign could consolidate the power to make purchasing decisions from the hands of many doctors to a few, which simply causes the corruption to converge.'

The Ministry of Health is also drafting a directive to prevent doctors prescribing medications in return for kickbacks and studying the establishment of a blacklist to name and shame individuals and businesses engaged in fraud and corrupt practices.

Mr Mao said the ministry would reintroduce a requirement that doctors prescribe medicine using their generic drug names.

The State Food and Drug Administration approved 1,113 'new drugs' last year, in contrast to the 81 approved by the American FDA. 'The resumption [of the generic prescription] ... mainly aims to cut the relationship between medical staff, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and logistics enterprises,' Mr Mao said.