The Shanghai government said yesterday it would raise the general level of doctors' salaries next year while continuing to reform the drug procurement system in its latest bid to fight corruption in the medical services.
The announcement follows the suspension of three doctors exposed on TV for taking kickbacks from medicine sales representatives.
Vice Mayor Weng Tiehui said: "Bribes in the medicine industry are a stubborn problem that requires systematic solutions, and the most important aspect is to reform the drug distribution system in order to prevent corruption in drug procurement and to provide quality drugs at cheaper prices."
Since last year, Weng said, Shanghai has been one of the trial cities where public hospitals had been given the right to publish medicine tenders. Previously, tenders were published by the government, which left room for bidders to bribe hospitals and doctors to get their drugs accepted.
With hospitals responsible for their spending on drugs under the trial system, this is a major incentive for them to keep costs down and reject sales representatives' pleas to accept more expensive medicines.
"We hope that when the new procurement process is fully implemented, drug bribery will be eradicated, but it will take time," she said.
Wu Jinglei, director of the city's health and family planning commission, said the prices of more than 10 drugs included in the new procurement system had dropped 63 percent on average.
Wu said the government has been proactive this year in compensating public hospitals through consolidated budget management and ensuring financial support according to "the duties of the government."
"We're providing them with a lot of money in infrastructure construction, procurement of large medical equipment, salaries of retired staff and other aspects," he said. "Shanghai is a leading city in China in fulfilling its responsibilities to public hospitals."
Wu said the government is also working on new methods to determine salaries of public hospital doctors and will implement them next year.
"Their salaries will be based on not only how many patients they have served, but also the quality of their service, ratings from the patients and their personal integrity," he said. "The idea is to cut off doctors' incentives to earn higher salaries by driving up revenue to the hospital through their (questionable) practice."
"Currently, some doctors have quite high salaries which are disproportionate to a good number of their colleagues," Weng said.
The general level of salaries among hospital staff is expected to rise according to the new methods, though not everyone will benefit, she said.
"We will make sure that their salaries are calculated in a way to reflect the value of their services whatever their job responsibilities are," she added.
At the weekend, CCTV reported that doctors in six hospitals in Shanghai and Hunan Province took bribes from sales representatives, with kickbacks amounting to about 30 to 45 percent of the medicine's price.
On Sunday, the Shanghai government said it had ordered all hospitals to carry out internal checks and punish staff who had committed irregularities. It also announced an across-the-board inspection of the industry next year.