|A long line of patients at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. Photo: Yin Lu/GT|
It was 9 am on Monday, and Beijing Chaoyang Hospital was crowded and filled with people in pain anxiously lining up and waiting in front of the registration windows, the pharmacy and the doctors' offices.
In contrast, at a small community clinic nestled inside a hutong a five minute walk away from the hospital, there were only four patients. All four were senior citizens having their blood pressure checked and listening to healthcare tips from doctors.
In Beijing, big hospitals are overcrowded and community clinics are neglected. Statistics released by the Beijing Public Health Information Center show that in 2012, the well-funded, highly specialized tertiary hospitals treated 81 million patients, while community health service centers had only half of the workload, 41 million patients.
"It should have been the other way around," said Cui Xiaobo, professor at Capital Medical University.
Choosing between big and small
In 2012, there were four practicing doctors for every 1,000 residents on average, according to the Beijing Health Bureau. "That is already a comparatively high rate internationally, but people still feel we're short of medical resources," said Cui, noting that the reason is "everybody is flooding to the tertiary A hospitals."
In China, hospitals are designated as primary, secondary and tertiary institutions according to their functions, facilities, and abilities to conduct medical research. Under each category they are designated as A, B, or C, with A being the top rating, according to hospital classification criteria by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
While primary institutions only provide basic health care to a certain community, a tertiary hospital shoulders the responsibility of specialist health services for multiple regions, medical education and scientific research. "Each doctor has to see 60 to 80 patients every day, which is not the case in many other countries," Cui said.
"It's a waste that most of the patients big hospitals treated could have totally been cured by community clinics," Cui said. According to research conducted in the UK, among a community of 1,000 people, 500 would have health problems in one month, half of whom need to see a doctor. Most of the patients can be treated by community clinics, and only 15 of them need medical care from a big hospital. "That means general hospitals only serve for 1.5 percent of the population," Cui concluded.
However, many citizens have their own standards when it comes to deciding whether they should take a long trip to the big hospitals or just go to the clinic around the corner.