Caixin
Apr 09, 2014 06:09 PM

3 Tln Yuan over Five Years 'Has Hardly Raised Medical Worker Pay'

(Beijing) – Medical workers are hardly being paid better than they were five year ago when a major medical reform was launched, and this problem will obstruct further progress, an official with the country's health commission said.

Some 3 trillion yuan has been spent subsidizing public hospitals and improving health care for ordinary people since 2009, Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said in a press conference on April 8.

This was a huge expenditure, but it has hardly solved the problem of underpaid doctors and nurses, he said. "The salaries of medical workers are indisputably low and (raising them) is a tough challenge."

This is particularly true for hospitals at the county level and below, Mao said. "The reform cannot be carried through if key issues like this are not solved."

Government in China has five levels, from the central government at the top down to villages. County-level governments are just above villages. Provinces are on the second level, and cities on the third.

Experts see low salaries and heavy workloads as one reason for many of the industry's problems, including doctors overprescribing medicines to get kickbacks from drug makers.

The goal of the medical reform launched five years ago was to ensure fair and affordable health services for all people in the country. Its blueprint document says the country will have a basic health care system that can provide "safe, effective, convenient and affordable" services to urban and rural residents by the end of 2020.

The plan seeks to broaden private investment in the sector as a way to encourage competition and increase the supply of medical resources. A private hospital recently opened in Shanghai has been criticized for being too expensive, though supporters say it is a step toward compensating doctors for what their expertise is truly worth.

Vice premier Liu Yandong said on April 4 raising medical workers' salaries and stopping doctors from making money off drug sales are important parts of the reform.

"This is not an either-or question," he said, "We must solve them both."

Commission director Li Bin said its research has found that fees charged by hospitals in small towns for in-patient care are extremely low. Even the best caretakers who attend to a patient all day are paid only 30 yuan, she said.

The charges for some surgeries are also low, Li said.

"This reflects poorly the value of medical workers," she said "And it caused hospitals to have an unreasonable income structure."

Hospitals get most of their income from selling drugs and performing examinations, but a more healthy approach would give more weight to medical workers' knowledge and labor and price them properly in bills.

(Rewritten by Wang Yuqian)

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