16 cities picked for health care trials

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2010, 12:00am

Sixteen cities across the mainland have been selected to carry out experiments in their public hospitals as a core, yet highly controversial part of the country's health care reform.

The long-awaited list includes Shanghai, Shenzhen, Zhenjiang, and Anshan in Liaoning. Several cities, such as Shanghai, and Wuhu in Anhui, had already started public hospital reforms before the announcement.

In a guideline published on the Ministry of Health's website, public hospitals, notorious for pursuing profits, are given details for the first time on how to compensate for the loss of income from prescribing expensive drugs, which has been a fundamental profit-maker for most public hospitals. They are advised to pay for their costs only through service charges and government funding, and to gradually stop imposing a surcharge for medicine. The gap would be filled by increased government funding and by imposing a service charge, which will be paid by medical insurance.

'The experiments aim to establish a general strategy and major policies and measures in a bid to lay the foundation to advance public hospital reform,' the guideline stated.

People have long felt the burden of unaffordable health care, especially expensive drugs, surgical procedures and tests, but hospital chiefs said they had no alternative.