Via his excellent blog China Medical News, journalist Michael Woodhead has a long, must-read post: Dr Zhong Nanshan: what's wrong with China's health system and why we need to get doctors on board to fix it. Excerpt:
Dr Zhong Nanshan is one of China's most well known and respected doctors. A respiratory physician and former head of the Chinese Medical Association, he is the 'hero' of the 2003 SARS infection outbreak, and his frank advice is respected by the government. At this week's meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Dr Zhong gave a speech on the current problems with the Chinese healthcare system and the direction of health reforms.
"Today when I heard Premier Li Keqiang's announcement I was very excited, as his words provided a lot of inspiration on the difficult problems we are facing with medical reform. In recent years China's reforms of health insurance and the healthcare system have attracted worldwide attention. But from the public's point of view, there is still the problem of 'difficult to see a doctor, expensive to see a doctor'. Doctor-patient relations are still tense (as the China Hospital Association has recently made clear, hospital doctors and staff have often been the victims of violent attacks) and hospital staff are not showing enthusiasm or initiative in their work.
For these three criteria, when it comes to health reforms there has been no breakthrough in the last five years, and in fact things have become worse in some areas. Where does the blame lie? The answer is in our major (tertiary level) hospitals. In these institutions, doctors have not become heavily involved in medical reforms, and this problem is becoming more serious.
Look at land reform: this was about the relationship between farmers and landlords, and it was based on respecting the position of the farmer, allowing them to make a living. Likewise with education reform - this was about teacher-student relations and when teachers got better treatment they got more respect.
Why are doctors not enthusiastic for health reform?
Similarly, medical reform will depend on the involvement of doctors. America's medical reforms were about respecting medical opinion and allowing the doctor's clinical judgement to drive the direction of the medical system. I remember in 2012 when Li Keqiang was deputy premier and I saw him at a meeting, and I told him that the most important point I wanted to make was that doctors must be the driving force behind medical reform.
However, five years have gone by and it seems that under the present reform system medical staff can see no way in which they can change things for the better. On the contrary it seems that many of the reform programs have an adverse affect on the working conditions for doctors. For doctors it is as if society 'discriminates against them'. And under such conditions, where is the enthusiasm for medical reform going to come from?
Read the whole post. Dr. Zhong has some astonishing numbers about average salaries of Guangdong doctors and how they're earned. It sounds awful—for doctors and patients alike.