BEIJING, June 10 (Xinhua) -- China has begun to pilot an end-of-life care program in Shanghai as well as over 70 other cities and municipal districts to promote such care services, according to the National Health Commission (NHC) at a press conference Monday.
The pilot program was first launched in five cities and municipal districts, including Haidian District in Beijing, Putuo District in Shanghai and Changchun City in the northeastern province of Jilin, in 2017.
The NHC released a circular on the pilot program in May, calling for more research and investigations, recruitment of more talent as well as improved mechanisms to serve the program, said Wang Haidong, an official with the commission at the press conference.
End-of-life care, which is not yet common in China, provides palliation to terminally or seriously ill patients and meets their physical, mental and spiritual needs, aiming to help them die with more comfort and dignity.
A total of 283,000 patients received end-of-life care across the country in 2018, according to an NHC meeting on the pilot program held on June 3.
End-of-life care is an important part of the country's system of medical care for seniors, said Wang, who noted that around 75 percent of China's elderly people suffered from chronic diseases.
China had about 170 million people aged 65 or above as of the end of 2018, which accounted for nearly 12 percent of its total population.
The NHC will release guidelines for end-of-life care services that include medication guides and other expertise, Wang said.
"We will make efforts to enable access to end-to-life care across the country as early as possible," he added.
With around 40 million disabled and semi-disabled senior citizens, China sees an increasing need for health care services for elderly people.
"Health care, rehabilitation, nursing and end-of-life care facilities for seniors are in serious shortage," Wang said, adding that the facilities do not have sufficient capacity to provide qualified services.
The country will further improve elderly care services, especially in-home and long-term care for disabled and semi-disabled senior citizens, Wang said.