A mixed application of Chinese and Western medicine could be the mainland's best solution to better and affordable health care for its 900-million village population, a top official in charge of traditional medicine predicted yesterday. Speaking in Hong Kong, Dr Chen Luojia, deputy director of the administration arm of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said the two medical approaches could be complementary to each other. 'Both are studying something scientific. What we need is better understanding in the two streams. Then we won't discriminate against one another,' said Dr Chen. He said traditional medicine could never be excluded from China's health care system. Treatment for each in-patient in traditional medical institutes cost 1,400 yuan (HK$1,307) on average, compared with 1,600 yuan in a Western hospital, Dr Chen said. Average expenses for an out-patient were 30 yuan at a traditional clinic while the cost of Western medicine was 40 yuan. 'China's investment in hygiene and medicine accounts for five per cent of the world's total. But we take care of one-fourth of the world's population,' he said. Medical expenses were expected to increase from a share of 3.8 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product to five per cent by the turn of the century. Dr Chen used the treatment of gallstones as an example and said Western medical technology could be effective in crushing the stones while Chinese medicine and therapy such as laxative and acupuncture treatment could help remove them from the body. He expected more people would give recognition to Chinese medicine as the economy developed and exchanges with foreign countries strengthened.