Focus on medical care for the elderly

China Daily | Updated: Mar 11, 2021

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A community worker helps an elderly patient with online health insurance services at a hospital in Anqing, Anhui province, in July, 2020. [Photo by Huang Youan/For China Daily]

Liu Fan, a doctor from East China's Jiangsu province who is also a deputy to the National People's Congress, has proposed that the construction of gerontology hospitals be expedited to meet the demands of a rapidly rising aging population.

Data show that by the end of 2019, 254 million people in China were aged 60 or above, and 190 million of them suffered from chronic ailments. The "Healthy China 2030" blueprint talks about providing medical care, including medical treatment in hospital and nursing services, for the elderly.

The plan for Beijing says that by 2022 the number of senior citizens enjoying health services should not be less than 72 percent, and more than 50 percent of the big hospitals should have gerontology departments. However, there is a major demand and supply gap across the country.

Jiangsu province, where Liu comes from, has just 15 gerontology hospitals, while 18.54 million of its residents are above 60. The province ranks the second on the provincial-level GDP list.

Even in provinces where gerontology hospitals exist or are coming up, the medical services leave much to be desired.

The national list of medical institutions does not mention "gerontology hospitals" as a category, which means the national standards for gerontology have not been set. Nor is gerontology a major in colleges, which explains the lack of professionals offering specialized medical care to the elderly.

Liu has made two proposals to change the scenario. One is drafting of national standards for gerontology hospitals, including diagnosis of diseases, treatment, and caring for senior citizens. The other is including gerontology as a major in colleges.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), the number of senior citizens in China is expected to exceed 300 million. It is high time the authorities built more gerontology hospitals.

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