January 11, 2017 / 1:10 AM / 7 months ago

China to boost beds, staff to handle healthcare strains

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will add 89,000 new hospital beds and train 140,000 new obstetricians and nurses in order to deal with the strains on its healthcare system brought about in part by the relaxation of its "one-child policy", state media said on Wednesday.

Worried about its aging population, China issued guidelines in late 2015 allowing all parents to have two children and now needs to meet fresh demand for public services such as child healthcare and primary education, the official Xinhua news agency said.

As part of its 2016-2020 health "five-year plan", China aims to raise its total number of nurses to 4.45 million by the end of the decade, Xinhua said.

The new plan, published late on Tuesday, said demographic problems were likely to become more pronounced in the coming five years as a result of China's aging population, rising urbanization rates and healthcare coverage gaps in some regions.

It said China's average life expectancy was expected to rise one year to 77.3 years by the end of 2020, while its population was forecast to rise to around 1.42 billion, up from 1.37 billion at the end of 2015.

China also aims to cut infant mortality rates to less than 18 per 100,000 births, down from 20.1 in 2015, and death rates from diseases such as cancer and diabetes were also expected to fall 10 percent over the 2016-2020 period.

Reporting by David Stanway

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