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June 5, 2010

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Expanding health care for everyone

Both expats and locals are demanding more and higher-quality medical service, and Chinese and foreign health care institutions are providing more top-notch care and reaching out into Changning communities. Fei Lai takes the temperature.

The modern high-end medical service industry is developing rapidly in Changning District, serving both expats and locals.

"With a higher living standard and the expansion of high-income population, people are making more demands for quality medical service," says Shi Changcheng, head of the Changning Association for Health Professionals.

"To meet a multi-level medical service demand, we are seeking a multiple-ownership medical service mode that benefits people of all social classes."

Currently, the district has 100 non-governmental medical institutions, including 19 foreign-invested or joint ventures.

Targeting expats from Europe, America, Japan, Singapore, as well as high-income locals, these institutions offer star services such as obstetrics and gynecology, cosmetic surgery and dentistry.

Nearly 100 foreign physicians work in the district. Since 2001, about 1.02 million expats in Shanghai have been treated by foreign medical staff.

According to a sampling of 948 Changning expats early this year, regular physical examination is the biggest demand. More than half of the respondents called it a necessity.

Next came the need for medical insurance, health maintenance consultation and knowledge about traditional Chinese medicine.

Emery Ray Brautigan, 47, chief executive officer of Shanghai United Family Healthcare, has lived in Shanghai for three and a half years. An American who married a Shanghai native and now has two children, he says one of the biggest challenges for newcomers is knowing where to go for quality health care.

Meanwhile, more and more Shanghainese are also seeking quality health care and consulting physicians regularly.

"In the past, most people in Shanghai only went to a hospital or clinic when they were very ill, but now people want more service," Brautigan says. "They don't just want to be cured when they are very sick. They now want to see their physician on a regular basis.

"They want their physician to be their health partner to not only cure them of terrible diseases or injury, but also to maintain their health and avoid sickness, injury and disease, and help them improve their health and quality of life."

Shanghai United Family Healthcare, which opened in 2004 in Changning District, offers services including emergency, obstetrics, surgery, pediatrics and family medicine.

Brautigan says the largest number of hospital patients are local Chinese, followed by expats from the United States, Germany, Japan, England, France and elsewhere.

Its 24-hour emergency service is staffed by experienced bilingual nurses and physicians. Obstetricians deliver 45 to 50 babies a month.

"Our staff must have a strong love for medicine and a strong love for people and truly enjoy what they do. Most importantly, they take pride in what they do," says CEO Brautigan.

Every month physicians make many presentations and give lectures at foreign schools, businesses and corporations, as well as civic and charity groups. Topics include H1N1 flu prevention, stopping smoking, emergency pediatric care, muscle-skeleton issues, puberty, child safety, vaccines and oral hygiene.

The hospital donates 1 percent of its annual revenue to provide free health care for orphans and needy children in Shanghai.

"I hope our presence can inspire and encourage all health care providers in Shanghai to strive for excellence and have pride in serving the communities the very best they can," Brautigan says. "This is what the people in Shanghai need and deserve."

Sheng Yaohua, business director of Shanghai Aier Ophthalmology, a privately run specialized hospital, says the multi-ownership does not lead to fierce competition between private and state-owned institutions, as many people think.

"The state-owned hospitals are still very strong," Sheng says. "The most important thing is that hospitals in any kind of ownership arrangement should be dedicated to patients and high-quality service."

To serve the community, hospital volunteers give free medical consultation and eye exams at local communities. A bilingual team gives annual free eye exams in 10 foreign communities and schools.

"Changning is a highly internationalized district that requires hospitals to shoulder more social responsibilities to both local and foreign communities," Sheng says. "We do more promotion of eye health awareness and treatment for those with eye problems."


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