Integrating elderly and medical care services emerges as civil priority

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Senior citizens have been challenged with accessing elderly care and medical care simultaneously, often shuffling between nursing homes and hospitals as separate institutions. That means seniors face delays in treatment and a lack of available hospital beds.

To tackle the issue, the National Health Commission (NHC) and the Ministry of Civil Affairs jointly released a statement in 2016 to integrate elderly care services with medical care. The plan featured 50 districts and cities including Dongcheng in Beijing to create institutions to achieve that integration. Since then, major changes have spurred integration. By the end of 2020, there were 5,857 integrated elderly care services and 72,000 contractual partnerships between service institutions.

The number of beds in the integrated medical and nursing care has reached more than 1.5 million, and more than 90 percent of elderly care institutions can now provide medical and health services.  The NHC has also launched a national training program for improving the capacity of medical and nursing personnel, which trained nearly 10,000 people online in 2020.

Wang Haidong, director of the Department of Geriatric Health in the NHC, through active promotion, the policy system, service system, merit system, and information system for integrated eldercare services have all been thoroughly established.

Shandong Province has outperformed amongst designated demonstration provinces for the project. According to Wu Xiangdong, deputy director of the Shandong Provincial Health Commission, Shandong has simplified the examination, approval, and registration processes for institutions. The province has also standardised prices of elderly services in medical institutions. A total of 16 cities in the province have implemented long-term care insurance coverage for workers, among which Jinan, Qingdao and Dongying have extended the insurance coverage to all residents. Some localities have explored and established diversified service models.

In terms of financial support, Shandong’s provincial administration has allocated 20 million RMB of targeted funds to train 240,000 staff and relatives of the elderly community. It has also given construction subsidies ranging from 8,000-12,000 RMB per bed in medical and nursing institutions, which ranges 20 percent more than ordinary elderly beds. Each senior with moderate and severe disabilities have also been given a subsidy of 2,400-3,600 RMB per year.

According to Wang Haidong, in 2019, the NHC together with other departments issued the “Statement on Optimising Registration and Approval for Integrated Elderly Care Institutions.” The policy entailed simplifying registration for integrated elderly care institutions. A medical care institution is no longer required to hire a new legal employee when establishing elder care services if it already has a qualified one. Moreover, an elderly care institution does not need administrative approval for setting up an infirmary, a nursing station, and a health centre as long as it properly records the change.

The NHC also issued “Suggestions on Further Promoting the Development of Integrated Elderly Care.” The NHC notes in the statement that qualified integrated elderly care institutions can enjoy preferential taxes and fees in accordance with regulations. The NHC has stipulated that as long as an institution meets the qualified and fulfils prerequisites, the institution can apply to be an insurance-designated institution after three months of formal operation. Medical insurance departments are required to give an assessment within three months.