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Pilot project tests health reforms

MOU Yang finally knocked off work after seeing about 20 patients. Together with another village doctor, Mou oversees the care of about 1,600 villagers in Jinfeng District's Xihu Village in Yinchuan City, captial of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

The clinic has been taking part in the trial of a medical reform for almost two months. Villagers here can see the doctor for 30 common sicknesses and it costs only 1 yuan (15 US cents). Additionally, they can get 74 kinds of basic medicine at nearly cost price.

It's a small step in China's journey to provide improved medical services to all.

"The patients visiting my clinic have doubled every day now. They welcome the changes," Mou said. Similar changes will follow in villages across Chinese mainland.

China unveiled an 850-billion-yuan, three-year action plan recently, which the government said would lay a solid foundation for equitable and universal access to essential health care for all.

"In the past, villagers would go to hospitals in the town if they were sick. Village clinics were poorly funded," said He Weidong, director of Jinfeng District Health Care Department in Yinchuan.

"Now the government dispatches basic drugs to village clinics and villagers can get them at almost cost prices. An increasing number of villagers are now willing to turn to village clinics for help," He said.

China will institute an essential medicine system within three years to drive down prescription costs. The system includes a list of medicines that will be produced and distributed under government control.

But the reforms are not a cure-all for village doctors, said Mou. "I can feel the pressure," Mou said. "I earned about 2,000 to 3,000 yuan a month in the past, but now I can only earn about 1,500 yuan a month.

"We can treat 30 kinds of minor sicknesses, but if villagers are suffering from other illnesses they turn to the other clinic in our village."

That clinic did not join in the pilot health care reform.

"Now it earns much more money than before. They can provide services for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart problems, but we are not even allowed to provide drip services - the drips are beyond the 74 low-priced medicines," Mou said.


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