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    COVID Is Bankrupting China’s Private Hospitals, Media Report Says

    Restrictions in mobility and hospital visits have led to a drop in patients over the past two years.

    More than 100 private hospitals in China have gone bankrupt since the pandemic started two years ago, as strict government protocols on visiting medical facilities and mobility restrictions have reduced patient visits, according to financial media outlet Yicai.

    Some 46 private hospitals had filed for bankruptcy reorganization by July this year alone, Yicai reported, citing data from the business database Qichacha. In 2021, the number of such cases reached 100, up 25% year on year.

    “Some small private hospitals closed down after failing to survive the epidemic, but only some of them were reported publicly, and some enterprises that did not go through legal procedures were not recorded,” a manager of a private hospital told Yicai.

    Private hospitals, which are an important part of China’s medical system and complement public hospitals, have developed rapidly in the past decade. By the end of 2020, the country had 35,394 hospitals, of which two-thirds were private facilities, according to the National Health Commission.

    But the outbreak since the beginning of 2020 has led to a decline in hospital visits. The health authority estimated that 7.74 billion visits were made to medical institutions in 2020, down 11.2% from the previous year.

    According to an April report by the global consultancy Roland Berger, consumer health care such as medical aesthetics and dentistry were severely impacted in 2020. However, in 2021, leading private healthcare institutions have recovered to pre-epidemic levels, and some developed rapidly through capital operation and service upgrades.

    The manager of a dental hospital in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area told Sixth Tone on Wednesday that the “on and off” state caused by COVID outbreaks and lockdowns had a “significant impact on their business.” The number of outpatient visits from other parts of China had dropped “dramatically” since March.

    A manager of another private hospital in Shanghai told Sixth Tone that in addition to the large drop in patient numbers, they were unable to enjoy subsidy policies such as rent reductions and exemptions during the epidemic. He said it would be “difficult for hospitals to recover.”

    Meanwhile, the head of human resources at a private hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu told Yicai that they had forecast losses but wouldn’t be laying off employees or minimizing their services for now.

    “(The hospital’s) initial investment is in research and development and talent training, so it must be prepared for long-term investment,” the head of HR said.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: VCG)