China has allowed private hospitals solely owned by foreign investors to open in seven cities and provinces, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced on Wednesday.


Wholly foreign-owned hospitals are permitted in the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan, according to a statement jointly issued by the MOC and the National Health and Family Planning Commission dated July 25.


Foreign investors can either set up a new hospital or take part via mergers and acquisitions, it said.


But the MOC specified that only investors from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan may set up hospitals featuring traditional Chinese medicine.


Administrative approval procedures will be handled by provincial-level authorities.


Wednesday's announcement came after an agreement was signed on July 22 to pilot the first wholly foreign-owned hospital in China in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.


The Chinese central government has stressed reform in its healthcare sector following public demand for more and better healthcare services. A cabinet statement in May pledged price reforms in public hospitals and that more private hospitals would be established.


China vowed to expand its healthcare service sector so that it is worth 8 trillion yuan (1.3 trillion U.S. dollars) by 2020.


There were about 5,400 private hospitals on China's mainland in 2008, with that number rising to 10,877 by the end of October 2013, according to official figures. Public hospitals, which provide 90 percent of China's medical services, totaled 13,440 by the end of October.




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