The timetable for setting up hospitals funded by Hong Kong investors will be shortened under a central government plan to cut red tape.
Approval for health facilities funded by investors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan was among 50 new items that the State Council said on Monday would no longer require central government approval.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission has delegated authority to provincial-level authorities.
The move follows Premier Li Keqiang's call for greater government efficiency and less administrative intervention in the market economy. Li said earlier he would slash the State Council's 1,700 approval requirements in the next five years.
Red tape adds at least two years to the process of setting up a mainland hospital funded solely by investors from Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, the China Business News has reported.
"This could help cut one year off," an official with Shenzhen's Health, Population and Family Planning Commission, was quoted as saying.
But industry insiders said personal connections and knowledge of local government were still a necessity for investing in a clinic or hospital.
A source close to Shenzhen's health authorities said it could still take two or three years to set up a hospital under the new arrangement.
"To set up a wholly owned tertiary hospital in Shenzhen, Hong Kong investors must register a legal person with registered capital of at least 50 million yuan [HK$62.3 million], or 10 million yuan for a clinic," she said.
"Besides, you need to prepare various documents and proposals to prove you are qualified to provide comprehensive services, including family medicine, paediatrics and obstetrics."
So far, there is only one hospital and two clinics in Shenzhen that are wholly owned by Hong Kong investors.
"It cost me nearly two years to go through the application," said Wong Chi-ho, founder of Chiho Medical Centre, the first clinic in Shenzhen owned and run by a Hong Kong-registered doctor.
"The system on the mainland is quite different and much more complex."
Hong Kong Medical Association president Dr Tse Hung-hing said the relaxation would not have much influence.
"It is very hard for Hong Kong doctors to adapt to the different culture and legal framework on the mainland," he said. "Some have spent years going through the process. Why would the doctors be willing to do that if they are already making a good living in Hong Kong?"