Wen Jiabao

Premier chairs public health talks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2008, 12:00am

Premier Wen Jiabao has chaired two sessions of public consultations to solicit opinions over a controversial medical reform plan.

Mr Wen presided over the sessions on Friday and yesterday in which 22 members - representing such interests as medical practitioners, academics, drug makers, farmers participating in rural co-operative medical insurance schemes and company employees - spoke on draft medical reforms that have yet to be made public.

He said deepening medical reform was a 'long-term mission, as well as an urgent task'.

'We must fully recognise the importance, difficulty and complexity of this reform, seriously learn from our past reform experiences, and speed up and deepen the reform,' a State Council statement quoted Mr Wen as saying.

The mainland has been trying for the past three years to map out a reform plan for its ailing health sector, which is plagued by expensive and limited medical services, and corrupt hospitals that rely on drug company kickbacks to survive.

A co-ordination body composed of 16 government departments, headed by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Health, was set up in June 2006.

During the National People's Congress session in March, Mr Wen said a preliminary plan had been devised and would be released to the public. Health Minister Chen Zhu said it would be released after the congress.

The plan has failed to garner support from medical practitioners because authorities have yet to explain who should pay for public hospitals under the new plan.