New medical reform gets mixed reaction

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/23 22:18:40

Policy seen as ending over-prescription but hurting hospital income

Many patients and doctors have expressed discontent with Beijing's new medical reform announced on Wednesday, with doctors grumbling that "winter is coming for Beijing's public hospitals."

In order to separate medical treatment and drug sales, and to lower costs for patients, public hospitals in Beijing will end the markups over the drug prices, and the drug allowance will be disallowed in more than 3,600 hospitals and medical institutions from April 8, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Instead, Beijing will mandate transparent drug purchase, choosing suppliers through open bids and requiring full disclosure of producer information.

Registration and treatment fees will be replaced by a medical service fee of between 20 yuan and 100 yuan. Medical insurance will cover part of the fee. The registration and treatment fee was up to 10 yuan before, said doctors.

Moreover, the price of inspections will be reduced, for example, the fee for nuclear magnetic resonance will be reduced from 850 yuan ($123) to 400-600 yuan, The Beijing News reported.

The price of services involving manual work such as nursing, surgery and administering traditional Chinese medicine will be increased. For instance, the fee for a hospital bed would be increased from 28 yuan to 50 yuan, and the fee for acupuncture from 4 yuan to 26 yuan.

The income of doctors will drop sharply after the new policy takes effect, a doctor surnamed Wang from a first-class Beijing hospital, told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

Wang added that the markup on drug prices and examination fees are the major source of income for public hospitals in China. But the increased fees for registration and other manual services cannot make up for the canceled markups. 

"But the policy also has a good side as it will end the practice of doctors prescribing expensive drugs to patients, even if they were not needed, in order to increase the hospital's income," said a doctor surnamed He from another famous public hospital in Beijing.

Fang Laiying, head of the Beijing municipal health bureau, told Xinhua that "separating treatment and drug sales will cut off the channel of making money through over-prescription, and help medical practitioners provide more and better treatment services."

Zhou Zijun, a professor with the Peking University's School of Public Health, said that the policy can also reduce pressure on first-class public hospitals. "People with minor health problems can just go to the community hospitals instead of big public hospitals which cost far too much." 

Some netizens also expressed discontent with the new policy. "Charges for the frequently used medical services have increased while the examinations, which are needed less frequently, have become cheaper," wrote a Weibo user.

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