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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973

Barefoot Doctors

Barefoot Doctors

The medical co-operative system was being practised at Hsien Chiao. This system has been introduced since the Cultural Revolution although it has not spread yet throughout the country. Under this system medical services have been decentralised to the lowest level of organisation where 'barefoot' doctors treat simple complaints and practice traditional and modern medicine. Each production brigade had its own medical centre and the commune had its own hospital — 105 beds, 17 doctors and 73 other medical workers.

The hospital was built in 1968 and its facilities included a maternity ward, a dentistry department, an x-ray department and facilities for surgery. Before the Cultural Revolution surgical cases had been sent to Canton, but now most of the work is done in the commune hospital. One of our interpreters read out a list of recent operations which included a malignant tumour, hernia, gastronomy and a thyroid operation. While family planning is encouraged abortions are also performed at this hospital.

We were surprised to see that the commune had its own pharmaceutical workshop which manufactured drugs and herbs only for the commune hospital. It had been in existence for two years and some of the products we saw included intravenous solutions and drugs for curing diptheria and rheumatism. The medical services at Hsien Chiao were a very good example of the principle of self-reliance operating in practice.