chinas health system faces challenges as covid 19 variant omicron hits - China's health system faces challenges as Covid-19 variant Omicron hits

Hospitals stretched

China’s healthcare system was understaffed and struggling to cope with its huge population even before the pandemic.

According to the National Health Commission, China has only 2.9 general practitioners per 10,000 people. Britain has around the same number for every 1,000 people.

Some Chinese regions are woefully under-resourced.

In Jilin province, site of a recent Covid-19 cluster, authorities said there were only 22,880 hospital beds for a population of 24 million.

Peking University researchers have warned that China could suffer a “colossal outbreak” that would quickly overwhelm its medical system if the authorities relaxed restrictions to a similar degree as in Europe and the United States.

It would likely lead to hundreds of thousands of new cases a day, the researchers said.

Urban-rural divide

Despite huge reductions in rural poverty, there are still significant differences in access to healthcare between the countryside and cities.

Much of China’s wealth, equipment and expertise is based in top-tier cities where richer residents can choose between a range of hospitals including international clinics.

According to a National Health Commission report last year, China had only 1.6 medical workers per 1,000 people in rural areas and just 1.5 hospital beds.

Although nearly 40 per cent of the population lives in the countryside, rural China had a total of only 1.4 million hospital beds.

Rural Chinese who migrate to cities for work also struggle to access healthcare in the cities due to red tape.