Beijing (AsiaNews) - After low-cost industrial production and
the race for energy reserves, China will also open up the health market. In the
country, there are 260 million people suffering from cancer, diabetes and other
chronic diseases, and the central government is looking for partners (including
international ones) able to improve the performance of the NHS.
On 23 June, the Chinese Minister of Health, Chen Zhu, warned:
"85% of the causes of death among Chinese citizens are due to chronic
diseases: a series of circumstances has resulted in unprecedented challenges
that the public health services must face."
Speaking from Shanghai, the Minister stressed that the
mechanism of public health services "is facing challenges that go far
beyond the health sector itself and which are rooted in different social
environments: it's necessary not only to improve the prevention and day-to-day
control of diseases, but also to play an important role in dealing with
significant public health emergencies."
According to the Chinese Constitution, every citizen is
entitled to free medical care and drugs, but only in their area of birth. For
migrants (the real engine of industrial development in the country) and for
farmers, these services are not guaranteed. For this reason Beijing is looking
for health groups from around the world that can offer low cost services that
it cannot provide.
The most recent one is the Carlyle Group LP, which last week
acquired 52% of the hospital Chang'an. This operation arises from statements
made by Beijing, which wants to sell by 2015 at least 20% of hospitals to
private interests. The turnover is huge: every year the market grows by 18%,
and within 2 ½ years it will reach a volume of 500 billion dollars.
David Chow, who leads Harvest Medical Investment and
Operation Group in Taiwan, says: "The Chinese gross domestic product is
growing by leaps and bounds, but the quality of medical services is very
backward. We have in front of us a massive growth potential, both in number of
beds served and in the cost of individual treatments." However, this
project does not include at least 200 million people.
According to government sources, over 95% of China's
population in 2011 had health insurance provided by the government. But the
data does not refer to those who, for economic reasons, have left their
birthplace to seek their fortune in other parts of China. The migrants, as well
as farmers evicted from their fields due to the needs of industrial
development, are not included in these figures.
After the industrial reforms of the Seventies and Eighties,
less than 10% of farmers and migrant Chinese had access to medical care. In
2009 the central government launched a plan to force employers to register them
and pay for their medical care, announcing triumphantly that it had
"defeated the scourge of health care." However, several international
NGOs argue that in 2011 "more than 200 million people simply could not
afford medicine or a doctor."