China in grassroots mobilization to ensure medical supplies
Before dawn, Zhang Xuefeng was already driving his car along the rugged mountain roads in north China's Hebei Province to deliver medicines to villagers.
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has kept the village doctor busy. Every day, he travels from one village to another to provide consultations and deliver medicines so that villagers with mild symptoms need not flock to packed hospitals in cities.
"The advice I always gave after prescribing medicines is 'drink more water, cough up phlegm and call me at any time'," said Zhang, who is in charge of six villages under the city of Baoding.
After China further optimized its COVID-19 prevention and control measures in December, grassroots health facilities and general practitioners like Zhang have been mobilized to form the first line of defense against the highly contagious virus.
In Baoding, health authorities assembled 5,534 teams comprising 17,966 physicians and township, village, and community cadres. They are entrusted to provide diagnosis and medicines at patients' homes and assist with the transfer of the seriously ill to large hospitals, said Liao Jihai, a director of the city's health commission.
Moreover, these "house call squads" have helped log the city's 1.3 million population of senior citizens and people with underlying diseases to keep track of their conditions, said Liao.
"In this way, mild cases can be treated in local communities, so that large hospitals can be reserved for more serious patients," the official said.
Extensive grassroots mobilization has characterized China's battle with previous COVID-19 outbreaks, with community workers and rural cadres commissioned to disseminate knowledge, enforce antivirus policies and take care of residents quarantined at home.
As a new wave of infections sweeps across China, prompting a rush buying of medicines while creating long queues in hospitals, grassroots units of the government and other social forces are again mobilized to deliver medicines and help patients in need.
Since early December, Zhang has made house calls for over 1,000 villagers. On the busiest day, he delivered medicines to more than 50 patients.
Yang Pengcheng, another village doctor in Baoding, concocts traditional Chinese herbal brews every morning before delivering them to villagers for free.
"Our village has many geriatric patients with underlying diseases. Some shun the hospitals for fear of getting infected there," said Yang, who joined a "house call squad" last month to provide medical services to homebound patients.
In Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province, government and community workers delivered care packages containing ibuprofen and other medical supplies to vulnerable groups such as seniors living alone.
"We've registered every elderly or disabled resident that requires more attention, so we can maintain daily contact with them and offer timely help should needs arise," said Chen Gonghuang, Party chief of the Wuta community of the city.