Deputy proposes enhancing healthcare access through branch hospitals

Source: China Daily Updated: 2024-02-21

Less than a month after Zhejiang People's Hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, opened a branch in the neighboring city of Shaoxing in early January, a number of complicated surgeries could be performed locally.

"In the past, even though I saw patients in there, I wouldn't dare perform the risky operation of removing tumors in the head and neck that invade the base of the skull due to the lack of a sound medical team in Shaoxing handling pre-and postoperative care," said Ge Minghua, president of the hospital and a senior surgeon specializing in the treatment of tumors in the thyroid, head and neck.

Ge added that the branch hospital also introduced robot-assisted surgeries to Shaoxing and several robotic operations have been successfully carried out.

The establishment of the hospital branch promises deeper and more direct partnerships between major hospitals and local governments, providing consistent and sustainable medical services of high quality to wider populations, according to Ge, who is also a deputy to the National People's Congress, the top legislature.

"The branch hospital differs from the traditional model of sending medical experts from major hospitals to grassroots clinics regularly to receive patients," he said.

"The main campus in Hangzhou and the branch in Shaoxing are closely knitted and all clinical and management departments, including arrangement of shifts of hospital staff, are coordinated.

"Put simply, all medical workers and senior experts now work at both sites, enabling patients in Shaoxing to enjoy our services without leaving the city."

During this year's two sessions — the largest annual political event in China — which opens on March 4, Ge said that he plans to translate the project's successful experiences into a proposal to be submitted to the NPC.

The proposal would call for achieving common prosperity in healthcare through building closer partnerships between large, advanced hospitals and local governments to widen access to high-quality medical services.

China has been promoting balanced regional distribution of medical services for years.

According to the National Health Commission, by November China had set up 13 national medical centers and several regional medical centers targeting pediatrics.

In the meantime, 125 regional medical centers have been initiated and over 80 cities and more than 820 counties have begun programs that band together major and small hospitals to build a more robust medical system.

However, Ge said that such cooperation should extend beyond the dispatching of senior doctors to less developed areas and requires deeper integration and the full commitment of leading hospitals.

Zhejiang province, he said, is an ideal testing ground for the new model because its robust transportation system allows doctors and nurses to commute regularly between two cities.

"In the long run, we expect the hospital branch to expand its coverage to county clinics and community healthcare centers, and eventually form a local medical network," he said.

Ge, who became an NPC deputy in 2013, has submitted around 60 proposals, with the majority centering on healthcare reforms.

Novel approaches to improving medical capacities at the grassroots level have been a particular area of focus.

"When formulating proposals, I first examine whether an issue truly exists and whether there are practical solutions to it," he said.

"Through full investigation and interviews, I also test the feasibility of my suggestions."

During last year's two sessions, Ge submitted a proposal calling for stronger investment in teenagers' mental health.

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