Medical care blueprint defended after criticism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2008, 12:00am

Health Minister Chen Zhu yesterday defended the heavily criticised health care reform blueprint released for public consultation, but said he would outline the five near-term goals with 'language that everyone can understand'.

Mr Chen's defence was apparently a response to unusually blunt criticism by China Central Television news anchor and commentator Bai Yansong on a programme broadcast nationwide last week.

In the programme, Bai said he could hardly understand the dry and difficult language of the long-awaited blueprint.

'I believe many people will have no suggestion for the health care reform after reading it as they don't know what the health care reform is about,' he said.

'This is a result of the participation of 16 departments. The final result is that of compromise.'

Bai complimented the paper by saying it was 'impeccable', but said that the compromises caused it to fall short in terms of shedding light on how the government was going to address the problems.

He said a synopsis of the blueprint was needed to help the public understand it.

It is rare for a CCTV commentator to openly attack a government proposal as the broadcaster's usual function is to garner public support for government policies.

The criticism showed the proposal put forward by the administration after two years of intense bargaining by different departments could not satisfy the public and the different interested parties, analysts said.

Dr Chen, appointed health minister partly because of dissatisfaction over the progress of health care reform under the leadership of former minister Gao Qiang , said at an event co-sponsored by the medical publication The Lancet that the blueprint contained reachable near-term goals.

The blueprint's five near-term goals include having 90 per cent of the public - both from cities and the countryside - covered by one of the three schemes available for rural dwellers, urban employees and urban dwellers.

Others include cheap supply of necessary drugs, enhancing the capacity of grass-roots medical institutes, and basic public health care funded by the government.

The fifth goal is to test reforms in selected public hospitals. Dr Chen said it was the most difficult, but a necessary move.