China has announced a series of measures for high-quality development of public hospitals in the next five years, including providing medical resources to underdeveloped areas and improving public health emergency policies.

Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 epidemic, the government has vowed to oversee the high-quality development of its 12,000 public hospitals over the next five years. This offers a clue for Nigeria in easing the pressure often placed on big public hospitals in city centres by large population of those who rely on government facilities to offset treatment cost.

For years, the Chinese government has been advising people to seek treatment in nearby medical centres, instead of going to big hospitals in big cities. Since 2019, top public hospitals in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai have been encouraged to set up sub-branches in provinces that have a large population, but don’t have advanced medical resources. And authorities say the plan has been working. The 10 pilot projects have helped patients get treatment in local hospitals.

“In Henan, there’s a sub-branch of Beijing Children’s Hospital in the provincial capital Zhengzhou. In 2020, the province saw a big drop in the number of patients who went to the Children’s Hospital in Beijing. The number of out-patients has dropped by 63 percent, and the number of hospitalized patients has dropped by 51 percent,” said Sun Zhicheng, director of Social Development Department of the National Development and Reform Commission.

These sub-branches are called regional medical centres and will be expanded to all provinces by the end of next year. The government also requires every city to choose one comprehensive hospital to focus on the epidemic. Hospitals specialising in infectious diseases will also receive support to improve their facilities. These are just part of the new blueprint. Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, explained what the government aims to achieve in the next five years. “Public hospitals will focus on improving quality and efficiency rather than expanding in scale. Their operation and management will be more delicate and will focus on talents and technologies, instead of materials and equipment,” he said.

“All these measures aim to provide efficient medical services with high quality, and to prevent and fight major epidemics and public health emergencies. They’ll support the construction of a healthy China,” Li added. The central government is requiring public hospitals to be better prepared for major epidemics. One of the issues of concern to public health systems in Nigeria is that people often bypass secondary healthcare facilities to move cases directly to tertiary hospitals believed to be better equipped and managed experienced health experts.

Although many secondary healthcare facilities run the Lagos state government for instance has at least a surgeon, obstetrician, gynaecologist, paediatrician and specialist equipment, resident still both in city centres and suburbs still overlook them due to delays in access and sometimes unavailable of the experts.

“People will not go to any of those secondary hospitals. They prefer to come to LASUTH. So, we are overs-subscribed. As we speak, we have over 37 medical emergency beds,” Adetokunbo Fabamwo, chief medical director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) told BusinessDay earlier in an interview.

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