China’s Qinghai province on a mission to eradicate parasitic disease, one of the largest barriers for poverty alleviation

Doctors check medical images of patients. Picture: Qinghai University Affiliated Hospital

Doctors check medical images of patients. Picture: Qinghai University Affiliated Hospital

Published May 3, 2021


Liu Chengyou, Jia Fengfeng

Qinghai - "The surgery went well,” said Fan Haining, vice-president of Qinghai University Affiliated Hospital, northwest China's Qinghai province. Fan’s words reassured Tsering Tandrup, 40, whose wife was diagnosed with echinococcosis four years ago.

Qinghai is a plateau province and home to a vast number of herdsmen. Echinococcosis was once the No. 1 threat for the herdsman there, as they always live on grassland or by the water, and have close contact with livestock. In addition, the poor healthcare condition and high cost of treatment also made local herdsmen reluctant to go to hospitals. Therefore, the disease was also one of the largest barriers for poverty alleviation.

Since Qinghai launched a campaign to eradicate echinococcosis in 2016, the province has screened a total of over 5 million residents, which covered almost all the population living in endemic areas. The number of the infected added up to 14,000. More than 7,900 of them received free medical treatment, and more than 2,800 received free surgeries.

“We established standardized wards for treating echinococcosis patients and adopt a graded treatment method,” said Cui Hongyuan, member of a medical team sent to Qinghai by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Communist Youth League of China Central Committee.

Key doctors are sent to local communities to perform surgeries for patients with mild symptoms, while those in severer conditions are transferred to Xining, the capital of Qinghai province for treatment, Cui explained.

"We are also supported by medical insurance and charity fund, which enables us to not only pay for the medical cost of the patients, but also offer them living allowances," Cui told People's Daily.

The campaign is led by major hospitals in the province and joined by a team headed by academician Dong Jiahong of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Free drugs are handed out to all patients by cities and prefectures, counties, townships and villages, and those in severe conditions are centralized for surgeries.

Letso is a cadre sent to the Qinghai University Affiliated Hospital by Gande county of Qinghai province to handle communication and coordination work. In order to admit as many patients as possible, counties of Qinghai joined efforts with local hospitals. The county governments organize, screen, evaluate and transfer the patients, while hospitals receive and treat them, as well as complete follow-up visits. “This month 40 patients were discharged, and we’ll be able to make a triumphant return in the next couple of days,” Letso said, being proud of what she has done.

Given the efforts made by local governments, cadres, doctors and nurses, as well as the medical insurance and charity fund, patients are becoming increasingly more willing to be treated at hospitals.

“We shall not only perform surgeries and treatment, but also focus on how to precisely prevent and control the disease in a scientific manner,” Dong said. He made a clear timeline to eradicate echinococcosis: to effectively contain it by 2020, control it by 2025, and eliminate it by 2030.

In June the last year, Qinghai kicked off a special action to perform surgeries for echinococcosis patients. As of the end of November, patients in all cities and prefectures other than Golog and Yushu had their surgeries performed, and all the remaining 156 were expected to go through surgeries before the end of 2020.

“An echinococcosis control paradigm that combines scientific research, cultivation of doctors, education on patients and diagnosis and treatment management has been established, thanks to the joint efforts made by multiple departments and relevant parties,” said an official from Qinghai’s health commission.

According to the official, the health commission will keep enhancing the public health capability of the pasturing areas, so as to further consolidate the achievements of poverty alleviation and the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

* This article was published in partnership with People’s Daily Online SA.

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