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Chinese govt encourages devt of private hospitals

2014-04-14 17:38 CNTV Web Editor: Yao Lan

The Chinese government has unveiled a package of healthcare measures to relax price controls on non-public hospital services and encourage the private sector to build more facilities.

Plastic surgery was among the first specialties that China opened to private investors. This clinic in Shanghai has been operating for more than nine years. Doctors there say that they've been seeing more young patients in recent years, as people have more money and care more about the way they look. They say many young women come here for cosmetic eyelid surgery and face lifts, which can cost more than 13,000 yuan each. And some women say the private hospitals offer something different.

The service here is better than in public hopitals, where the doctors seldom show patients a good attitude.

"I think cosmetic surgery is a luxury industry, so the price is acceptable," said Song Xiao.

Beijing's latest policies will allow private hospitals like this one to charge as much as they want for medical services based on market demand, which means no more government approval of prices.

"The new policies will help attract people with different needs. They can choose hospitals according to their environment, service and medical treatment projects. Now in public hospitals, you have to line up to see an expert, and the charge is fixed. With the new policy, we can set up a price package for high-end people. They don't need to line up to see an expert, but the doctor may spend half a day diagnosing them. That wasn't allowed before," said Ju Junqing, general manager of SH Tida.

Ju says only in the cosmetic surgery industry, can one private hospital charge twice as much as another for the same surgery and same service.

But patients who are less wealthy can also benefit from the policy. With the relaxed price rules, some facilities are teaming up with their foreign counterparts to offer better services. Patients can pay the bill in local hospitals partly with their health insurance card and then go directly to the foreign hospitals for the treatment.

This six-year-old girl is one of the patients benefiting from such a partnership. She was diagnosed with congenital heart disease, and the Shanghai private hospital she's in is talking with its overseas partners about possible cures for her condition that so far no Chinese hospital can treat.

"We spent 300,000 to 500,000 yuan over the past six years trying to treat her. With this disease, she can easily catch cold and have a sore throat. Her fingers always look purple," said Wang Shulian, grandmother.

Private healthcare is now among the fastest growing sectors in China. There were about 5,400 private hospitals on the Chinese mainland in 2008. By the end of last year, the number had more than doubled to almost 11,000. That's almost as many as China's 13,500 public hospitals that are financed by the state and regulated by health authorities.

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