How does China's health center alliance coordinate COVID-19 treatment?
Zhao Chenchen, Zhao Yuxiang

Medical institutions across China are gearing up for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases during and after the Spring Festival travel rush, particularly across the rural primary healthcare system.

The State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism rolled out a plan on December 11, 2022 that requires the healthcare alliance to enhance supplies and treatment capability in order to ensure better treatment for severely-infected people.

China has been promoting a three-tier county-township-village healthcare alliance since 2018, usually led by a third-tier People's Hospital with several other second-tier hospitals and clinics in rural areas, to closely operate together and share resources. 

The emergency treatment capacity at a People's Hospital in Changshu, a county-level city under the governance of Suzhou that has a population of around 1.8 million, has been doubled, along with its ICU beds, over the past month, a hospital official told CGTN.

As the emergency admissions peak gradually subsides, treatment to critical patients is at the core, said Chen Bo, the chief of emergency medicine at Changshu No.1 People's Hospital.

"Our staff and medical workers have been trained to treat critical patients should the number of such cases surge again in the future," he added.

Chen projected that severe or critical patients might develop other complications after the Spring Festival travel rush, thus primary care physicians must enhance medical evaluation of the elderly.

In addition, supply and proper prescription of antiviral drugs is vital at primary care hospitals.

Wu Danping, the director of Xinzhuang People's Hospital, which is a second-tier hospital under Changshu No.1 Peopl's Hospital, said there was a high demand for antiviral drugs at the beginning of the December infection wave.

"We can now guarantee prescriptions to those in need and I'm sure we won't be short of supply with the help from related institutions," Wu told CGTN.

Wu also noted that medical equipment is limited at his hospital, which was developed from a village clinic by combining the medical resources of two such facilities. The health alliance is thus critical for COVID-19 treatment.

According to Gao Yu, the chief of emergency medicine at Xinzhuang People's Hospital, the referral mechanism within the alliance ensures a transfer of patients within 30 minutes.

"If we anticipate that a patient's condition will worsen beyond our treatment capabilities, then we must refer and transfer them to an upper-tier hospital," Gao explained.

Wu added that the priority of primary care hospitals is to treat those with milder symptoms or those within the facility's capabilities, which saves resources and bedspace for critical patients at core hospitals.

Search Trends