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."