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Inside the world’s largest hospital

Healthcare in China has traditionally been the monopoly of the central government.  However, recent reforms to the healthcare system and relaxed rules on private investment has seen an explosion in the number of private facilities and the building of super hospitals on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.

The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, otherwise known as Zhengzhou First officially has 7,000 beds.  Incredibly, it is currently expanding its facilities which will see total in-patient capacity rise to 10,000 beds.  Facilities are spread across several buildings and over 28 floors.  It even has its own fire department and police station.  According to figures which were released as far back as 2015, the hospital admitted around 350,000 inpatients and treated a total of approximately 4.8 million people.  In a single day, it received a massive 20,000 out-patients.  One can only assume those figures have now risen even further with its expansion.

The major drive for the hospital’s expansion is according to the hospital’s president, Dr Kan Quancheng, the growing demand for healthcare amongst China’s population.  This is linked to a combination of factors including rising incomes, reforms in health insurance which has made it more affordable, and investment in the country’s infrastructure which has made travelling from rural areas to the city much easier.  For example, the government in Henan Province, the region where Zhengzhou First is located, has built an additional 4000km of roads and the city of Zhengzhou itself is home to China’s largest railway station.

The out-patient experience at Zhengzhou is very different than that experienced in many European hospitals.   For example, hospital attendants looking more like airline cabin crew are available to assist patients with registration, a process which is entirely automated.  It has been reported that some doctors see between 80-90 patients in just half-a-day.  Possible because the hospital is affiliated to a university where medical students are at hand to assist in preliminary exams and the writing up patient notes.

Hospital attendants at Zhengzhou First

The expansion of healthcare within China is part of the government’s Five-Year Plan to build 3000 new hospitals and update 26% of its existing hospitals.  China has pledged to achieve affordable and high-quality healthcare for all its citizen by 2020, a policy described by WHO as one of the most ambitious health care plans in the world.  The relaxation of rules around private investment has seen the entry of several companies in the Chinese healthcare sector including U.S.-based Chinaco Healthcare, Germany’s Artemed Group, China’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co, investment firm TPG Capital Management LP and property developers China Vanke Co and Evergrande Real Estate Group.

In January 2016, the Wanda Group, China’s largest commercial property group unveiled a 10-year exclusive partnership with the UK’s International Hospitals Group (IHG).  Under this deal, Wanda will invest 15 billion yuan (£1.75bn) in building three hospitals in the major cities of Shanghai, Chengdu and Qingdao.  These construction projects will be managed by IHG, who has previously successfully completed 450 healthcare projects across 52 countries.

Trade and investment deals between UK and China have hit historic highs in recent times and are likely to increase following the UK’s exit from the European Union.  The deal between Wanda and IHG is an example of the UK’s global reputation for a high quality medical system and service, which is sought-after by Chinese companies seeking commercial healthcare partnerships.