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China pledges to boost healthcare

Associated Press / April 9, 2009
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BEIJING - China announced plans yesterday to build thousands of new hospitals and put a clinic in every village in the next three years, the first steps in a decade-long reform plan to provide universal healthcare coverage.

Public healthcare in China has been underfunded for years, and the high cost and poor availability of services are among the biggest complaints of the Chinese public.

China is pumping in $124 billion to reform the ailing system in the next three years as part of an ambitious, and still only hazily outlined, plan to provide basic medical coverage and insurance to all of China's 1.3 billion people.

"By 2011, we will remarkably improve the accessibility of basic medical care and healthcare services and alleviate the burden of the general public for medical costs," Vice Health Minister Zhang Mao said at a briefing for reporters.

Health infrastructure in the poor countryside is especially creaky, and a report distributed at the briefing said clinic construction in remote and borders areas would be a key priority.

"Within three years, every village in the country will have a clinic," the report said.