Reilly signs deal to deepen co-operation with China

Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has signed a deal to deepen co-operation with China on healthcare education during an official visit.

Dr Reilly, who is on a week-long trip to China, said the country’s top pharmaceuticals company had expressed an interest in exploring opportunities in Ireland.

“There is a great willingness on both sides for more collaboration and exchange of information and exchange of personnel,” the Minister said in Beijing yesterday.

Dr Reilly signed an expanded memorandum of understanding on education and training with his Chinese counterpart, Chen Zhu.

“Minister Zhu was very interested in training more GPs and we set up a working group to bring that forward. We moved things on in a very real way,” Dr Reilly said.

He said there was also interest in training nurses, and Maura Pidgeon, chief executive of An Bord Altranais, was travelling with the delegation.

Health reform is a big issue in China, which has a population of 1.34 billion. The country has a high savings ratio because people need to put money aside for healthcare in the absence of a working state healthcare system. Rising incomes have seen the major causes of death shift from infectious diseases to lifestyle illnesses such as hypertension and obesity, requiring more preventive care.

Hospitals and doctors are financially dependent on medicine sales, and there are occasional riots in hospitals and attacks on doctors due to over-prescription or perceived inequality. It is an area ripe for reform and the government is prepared to invest in the sector.

Dr Reilly met Sinopharm, the biggest pharmaceuticals firm in China and fourth-biggest in the world, which is interested in research and development in Ireland. “Sino-pharm expressed great interest in coming to Ireland and looking for suitable partners,” he said.

He also held talks with Yin Li, commissioner of the State Food and Drug Administration, following which the Irish Medical Board was invited back to China in December for a conference.

The Minister delivered a keynote address to the China Health Forum in Beijing, which this year focuses on healthcare reform.

“Despite the fact that we face serious economic challenges and have had to cut 15 per cent of our health budget over the last few years, we have managed through reform to reduce the number of patients waiting for both inpatient and emergency services,” he told the audience.