Medical service firms seek to meet demand from the delta region

Updated: Dec 12, 2019 By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai China Daily Print
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Terry Edward Branstad (second right), US ambassador to China, and Roberta Lipson (second left), founder and CEO of United Family Healthcare, attend the launching ceremony of the hospital's relocated facility in Shanghai's Hongqiao central business area on Dec 4. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

United Family Healthcare, one of the first foreign-funded medical institutions in China, celebrated its relocation in Shanghai's Hongqiao area last week with an expansion and upgrade aimed to better serve the growing number of talents the Yangtze River Delta region attracts from home and abroad.

"For our two facilities in Shanghai's Puxi and Pudong areas, roughly one in six patients come from the delta region outside of Shanghai, including Suzhou in Jiangsu province and Hangzhou and Ningbo in Zhejiang province," said Roberta Lipson, founder and CEO of United Family Healthcare, which opened its first hospital in Beijing in 1997 and the first one in Shanghai in 2004.

Currently, more than 70 percent of its patients are Chinese, but the Yangtze River Delta region is "the only area in China where we have observed that the ratio of expat clients is still climbing", Lipson said.

With the ongoing further integration of the delta region, the hospital, which expects to see continued growth in expat clients, will also "provide internationally topnotch and comprehensive medical services to foreigners to contribute to the region's aspiration of absorbing talents from home and abroad", she added.

A development plan regarding the Yangtze River Delta region unveiled this month by the country's central government announced that the overall layout of first-class medical and healthcare resources in large-and medium-sized cities would be promoted to expand the coverage of high-quality medical institutions.

The plan aims to boost vitality in the region, which is about the same size as Germany and encompasses Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces as well as Shanghai and contributes roughly a quarter of the country's GDP and a third of foreign trade and investment.

The Hongqiao area, which is located in the western part of Shanghai bordering the municipality's neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, has been designated as an important engine that will drive high-quality development of the regional economy.

The Shanghai municipal government is developing Hongqiao into a highland of high-quality medical services serving diverse healthcare needs of the Yangtze River Delta region.

Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said the addition of the United Family Hospital is one step toward fulfilling the city's aspiration of building greater Hongqiao into a mega medical hub of the delta region.

Wu said the municipality will accelerate the construction of the New Hongqiao International Medical Center and establish a preliminary structure of premium modern medical services through setting up medical institutions with integrated high-quality medical resources and social capital at home and abroad.

The size of the new United Family Hospital in Hongqiao is more than three times that of its previous one, and it is equipped with advanced magnetic resonance imaging system and digital subtraction angiography, which are rarely seen in private medical institutions in Shanghai, according to the hospital.

"The capacity of our two facilities today is more than eight times that of our initial presence. We have benefited from national policies and those in Shanghai, which have become increasingly friendly to the development of international healthcare, including the concept of making Shanghai an international medical center for Asia," Lipson said.

US Ambassador to China Terry Edward Branstad said that the availability of such first-class medical services to residents shows the progress of China's cooperation and commitment to expand the options of high-quality medical healthcare in Shanghai and wider parts of China.

Since 2014, more than 20 hospitals partnering with foreign or wholly foreign-funded medical institutions have been awaiting approvals to enter Shanghai to provide services to the affluent Yangtze River Delta region, according to a report by China National Radio.

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