BEIJING, June 22 (Xinhua) -- China on Wednesday vowed to staff all hospitals in urban communities and rural townships with qualified general practitioners by 2012 in an effort to improve the quality of the country's medical care.
At an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, it was decided that China will establish a system of general practitioners, according to an official statement issued after the meeting.
Known as "doorkeepers" for the health of residents in urban communities and rural townships, general practitioners are medical professionals who treat acute and chronic illnesses and provide preventive care and health education.
The government will work to make general practitioners the backbone of China's medical system at the community level, the statement said.
The move is expected to ease public complaints about the difficulty of accessing affordable, high-quality medical services in local clinics, it added.
The statement noted that China faces a shortage of general practitioners and that the country's efforts to provide local clinics with such talent are still in their initial stage.
The country aims to establish a standard for the cultivation of general practitioners and a medical service model under which patients can be treated at community-level medical care facilities without having to opt for larger, more expensive hospitals, according to notes from the meeting.
China will work to ensure that for every 10,000 urban or rural residents, there will be two to three qualified general practitioners ready to take care of their health problems.
In this case, "qualified" is defined as having completed a five-year bachelor degree program in clinical medicine and three years of specialized medical education before becoming a general practitioner, the statement said.
In order to make up for the shortage of qualified general practitioners, selected medical practitioners who are already working for local medical institutions will be allowed to transfer to general practitioner posts after completing one to two years of additional training.
Doctors in urban hospitals are required to provide services at local clinics for one year before being promoted to higher positions, the statement added.
It was also said at the meeting that general practitioners will be allowed to work with community or township hospitals other than the ones they have already been assigned to. This move will help to promote better distribution for medical talent among hospitals at different levels.
Authorities will also introduce fresh stimulus programs for general practitioners, including offering subsidies for doctors willing to work in remote and underdeveloped regions, where people have little access to high-quality medical services.
According to the statement, government departments and local authorities are urged to work out concrete plans and regulations to achieve the government's goal of providing high-quality health care.
People in China's remote and underdeveloped regions have long had to rely on "barefoot doctors," who are unlicensed and are only able to treat common illnesses.
According to an official regulation effective from 2004, the Chinese government has urged these doctors to receive further medical training before becoming licensed doctors in an effort to boost the quality of medical service in remote regions.
It has been hard for remote and underdeveloped regions to attract high-level medical talent due to poverty and a lack of funds and policy support.