Great walls of China

Mas­sive new hospi­tal just one of thou­sands to be built in next sev­eral years

Modern Healthcare - - International Healthcare - Gregg Blesch

The U.S. is pump­ing bil­lions of eco­nomic stim­u­lus dol­lars into in­fra­struc­ture projects judged shovel-ready. In China, the shov­els come first. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment plans to build a mas­sive new pub­lic hospi­tal on the out­skirts of the Shunde district of Foshan, a city of 5.4 mil­lion that of­fi­cials plan to merge with Guangzhou, a city of more than 10 mil­lion and the cap­i­tal of Guang­dong prov­ince, form­ing a metropoli­tan area dubbed GuangFo. Ex­ca­va­tion has al­ready started for the new First Peo­ple’s Hospi­tal of Shunde, which is part of the na­tion’s re­port­edly suc­cess­ful ef­forts to keep grow­ing while much of the world wal­lows in re­ces­sion.

“The construction process is dif­fer­ent than here,” says Ray­mond Pan, a de­sign prin­ci­pal with On­tario, Calif.-based HMC Ar­chi­tects, which won an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign the project. “We’re still draw­ing, and we got a call say­ing the gov­ern­ment would like to start dig­ging in a cou­ple of weeks,” says Pan, the lead de­signer.

And while HMC was still work­ing un­usu­ally fast to com­plete the de­sign in ac­cord with the orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the gov­ern­ment just re­cently told the firm that the plans would have to be re­drawn with a third more square footage and half again as many beds. The project has an es­ti­mated $175.6 mil­lion bud­get.

HMC an­nounced late last sum­mer that the firm was the win­ner of an in­ter­na­tional de­sign com­pe­ti­tion, with China’s Shunde Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign In­sti­tute as a part­ner han­dling the construction doc­u­men­ta­tion. The ini­tial plans called for 1,500 beds and 2.2 mil­lion square feet. Then last De­cem­ber, Pan says, he learned the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment wanted to add a cou­ple of floors to the in­pa­tient build­ing, up­ping the bed count to 2,300 and the area to 2.8 mil­lion square feet.

In De­cem­ber 2008, sev­eral months be­fore the U.S. passed the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment said it would in­ject the equiv­a­lent of $585 bil­lion into its econ­omy through 2010 in re­sponse to the world­wide fi­nan­cial cri­sis. About 1% of the fund­ing was al­lot­ted for im­prov­ing health and ed­u­ca­tion—the gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ments and news re­ports don’t break it down in any greater de­tail—while nearly half will go to­ward rail­ways, high­ways, air­ports and power grids.

The gov­ern­ment has cred­ited the spending with spurring the na­tion’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct to grow by 8.9% in the third quar­ter of 2009 and was ex­pected to an­nounce full-year growth ex­ceed­ing 8%.

Also last year, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would spend $124 bil­lion in a three-year plan to over­haul its health sys­tem, largely aimed at pro­vid­ing ba­sic health ser­vices to the many mil­lions of its peo­ple liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas. Re­searchers at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity de­ter­mined in a 2007 study that more than 80% of health­care ser­vices in China are de­liv­ered in cities, al­though 70% of the pop­u­la­tion re­sides in ru­ral ar­eas.

Am­bi­tious plans

The three-year plan calls for the construction of 2,000 county-level hos­pi­tals and 29,000 town­ship hos­pi­tals as well as thou­sands of clin­ics. The gov­ern­ment pledged that ev­ery vil­lage in the sprawl­ing coun­try—which has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 1.3 bil­lion—will have at least one clinic.

If and when th­ese ag­gres­sive goals are reached, China will lag far be­hind in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions in health­care spending. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment spent about $38 per capita on health­care in 2006 (the most re­cent data avail­able), com­pared with $3,076 in the U.S. Mean­while, China is work­ing to ur­ban­ize more of its ru­ral pop­u­la­tion, and the new First Peo­ple’s Hospi­tal of Shunde is about ur­ban­iza­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as much as health­care.

Foshan is in what’s known in China as the Pearl River Delta Eco­nomic Zone, which in­cludes two spe­cial eco­nomic sec­tors near Foshan cre­ated in 1979 to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment, spark­ing the spec­tac­u­lar rise of the man­u­fac­tur­ing and port city of Shen­zhen. A rail tran­sit sys­tem un­der construction will con­nect Foshan with Guangzhou as part of a plan to

HMC AR­CHI­TECTS AND FRONTOP PHO­TOS

The hospi­tal planned for the Shunde district of Foshan, ini­tially to house 1,500 beds in 2.2 mil­lion square feet of space, is now

planned for 2,300 beds and 2.8 mil­lion square

feet. The site for the fu­ture hospi­tal

is now mainly rice pad­dies and

fish ponds.

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