Mobile medical service a blessing for country dwellers

Villagers queue up to see doctors at a mobile fever clinic in Dingtang, a village in Ji’an, Jiangxi province, on January 4. LI JUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Wang Jun was relieved when a doctor at the Lindian Community Health Center in Heilongjiang Province told him that his elderly parents, who were examined at home, were stable.

The doctor had arrived in a fully equipped medical vehicle, part of the Heilongjiang Health Commission’s dedicated effort to provide mobile medical services to vulnerable groups in rural areas where COVID-19 infections are reported.

“In December, village doctors had sent fever and cough medicine to my 91-year-old mother and 86-year-old father while preparing for an expected surge in COVID-19 infections,” said Wang, a resident of Dongfa, a village in the Municipality of Lindian. “However, when my parents started showing mild symptoms, including a fever, headache and fatigue, I became concerned because I feared it could develop into a more serious condition like pneumonia.”

Wang’s biggest concern was how to get his elderly parents, who have trouble walking, to a city hospital for an examination. He was amazed when he was told a doctor would come to their home instead.

“I was surprised when I saw the medical vehicle, which was equipped almost like a normal hospital. The doctor checked my parents’ temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels and then did electrocardiograms,” he said.

“The doctor left them some antiviral drugs with detailed instructions and promised to come back in a few days to check their health, which allayed all my worries,” he added.

After China recently streamlined its epidemic control policy, the Health Authority in Heilongjiang has taken steps to provide better medical care to vulnerable groups including the elderly, those with chronic diseases and pregnant women in rural areas with COVID-19 cases.

The Health Commission received a fleet of 20 vehicles equipped with medical equipment from medical companies in Zhejiang Province. Each vehicle was sent to different rural areas of Heilongjiang on January 7th.

The vehicles, each costing around 400,000 yuan (US$59,047), are equipped to perform biochemical tests, electrocardiograms and ultrasound scans, and have devices to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. All data can be uploaded to a platform for further consultation if necessary, the health commission said.

In China, 80 percent of medical resources are in cities. Rural areas, where the elderly and children often make up the majority of the population, face challenges, according to some experts.

“The new model (mobile medical service) helps to better ensure the health of rural people and frees up medical resources in the county,” said Fang Jie, deputy director of the county health commission. “Affected groups will be treated with priority and the scope of medical services will be successively expanded in the future.”

Similar measures are being taken in other places across the country, such as in Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

A vehicle equipped with sophisticated medical imaging equipment normally found only in hospitals is currently offering free high-tech checkups to elderly residents at their doorsteps in Qiantang district of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

A team of medical professionals man the vehicle, which will provide mobile CT scanning services to the elderly, particularly those aged 65 and over, those with underlying medical conditions and those who have difficulty getting around.

The vehicle can process around 200 examinations per day. The mobile medical services aim to reduce the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 infections.

According to the Qiantang District Health Commission, more than 12,000 residents aged 65 and over have underlying diseases and nearly 5,000 of them need the mobile CT screening at their doorstep.

In Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, 75 teams with 209 medical workers have been mobilized to conduct consultations in rural areas and detect and treat COVID-19 infections as early as possible, the city government said.

“It has become normal to offer on-site consultations, basic diagnosis and treatment in rural areas,” said Ma Chunmei, who leads one of the teams. “Medical teams are focused on serving key groups. They give residents advice on health care and epidemic prevention.”