Deaths of Seniors in Hospital Fire Point to China’s Elder Care Shortfall

Private hospitals have many incentives to try to capitalize on the unmet demand for long-term medical care, said Bei Wu, a professor of global health at New York University who has studied aging in China. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many struggled to draw enough patients to make money, because of their heftier price tags.

Then, under China’s three years of strict Covid restrictions, people who could avoid hospitals did so. Out-of-town patients, who often traveled to major cities like Beijing for care, dwindled as the country sought to limit movement.

The publicly traded parent company of Changfeng Hospital lost more than $14 million between 2020 and the first half of 2022, according to public filings. It did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I can see some ways this pushed private hospitals to say, ‘Hey, we can provide the care for these older adults with disabilities because this can be a potential revenue-generating source,’” Dr. Wu said.

The government has, in fact, promoted the integration of medical and elder care, encouraging nursing homes to build medical facilities and hospitals to offer more nursing services.

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