SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China will provide funding to build new institutions and infrastructure to fight infectious diseases and improve healthcare, the state planning body said in a “five-year plan” for the sector.
The central government will subsidise the construction of new “prevention bases” for infectious disease and new grassroots medical facilities across the country, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in the plan, published on Thursday.
It said China was facing difficult healthcare challenges, including new emerging infectious diseases, the increasingly heavy burden of chronic illnesses as well as the growing need for mental health services.
“The public health system is in urgent need of improvement, and the ability to prevent, control and treat major epidemics is not strong,” it warned.
High-quality medical resources are also insufficient and not evenly distributed, and there are also gaps when it comes to treating women and children, it added.
China acknowledged last year that the spread of COVID-19, first detected in the city of Wuhan at the end of 2019, had exposed “shortcomings and systemic problems” in the way it handled health crises.
Though medical facilities are obliged to report outbreaks as soon as they are identified, Wuhan authorities were accused of trying to cover up early cases and silencing whistleblowers.
The NDRC said new “major infectious disease prevention bases” would be built in all major cities, and would be equipped to treat large numbers of patients and deploy rapid-response teams to affected regions.
The central government would provide subsidies of up to 300 million yuan ($46.32 million) for each prevention base. It will also provide as much as 500 million yuan to help local governments set up comprehensive new regional medical centres.
More funding will also be available to help local governments set up new projects designed to integrate traditional Chinese and western medicine, and to build new maternal and child health facilities, it said.
It did not give a figure for total spending on the plans.
($1 = 6.4769 yuan)
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