Wang Jun felt relieved when a doctor from the Lindian township health center in Heilongjiang province told him that his elderly parents, who were examined at their home, were stable.
The doctor had arrived in a fully equipped medical vehicle, which is part of the Heilongjiang Health Commission's dedicated efforts to provide mobile medical services to vulnerable groups in rural areas from where COVID-19 infections are being reported.
"In December, while preparing for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 infections, village doctors had sent fever and cough medicines for my 91-year-old mother and 86-year-old father," said Wang, a resident of Dongfa, a village in Lindian township. "However, when my parents started showing some mild symptoms, including fever, headache and fatigue, I got worried, fearing it might develop into a serious condition, such as pneumonia."
Wang's primary concern was how to take his elderly parents, who have difficulty walking, to an urban hospital for a checkup. He was astounded when he was told a doctor would instead visit their home.
"I was surprised when I saw the medical vehicle, which was equipped almost like a regular hospital. The doctor checked my parents' temperatures, blood pressures and blood oxygen levels, and then did electrocardiograms," he said.
"The doctor left them some antiviral drugs with detailed instructions, and promised to return in a few days to review their health, which eased all my worries," he added.
After China recently optimized its epidemic control policy, the health authority in Heilongjiang took steps to provide better medical services to susceptible groups, including the elderly, people with chronic diseases and pregnant women, in rural areas with COVID-19 cases.
The health commission received a fleet of 20 vehicles equipped with medical devices from medical enterprises in Zhejiang province. Each vehicle was sent to different rural regions of Heilongjiang on Jan 7.
The vehicles, which each cost around 400,000 yuan ($59,047), are equipped to conduct biochemical tests, electrocardiograms and ultrasound scans, and have devices to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. All the data can be uploaded to a platform for further consultation, if necessary, the health commission said.
In China, 80 percent of medical resources are in cities. Rural areas, where seniors and children often account for majority of the population, face challenges, according to some experts.
"The new model (mobile medical service) helps better secure the health of the rural population and relieves pressure on medical resources in the county," said Fang Jie, deputy director of the county's health commission. "Priority is being given to susceptible groups, and the scope of medical services will be gradually expanded in the future."
Similar measures are being taken in other places across the country, such as Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
A vehicle equipped with sophisticated medical imaging devices, normally found only in hospitals, is currently offering free high-tech examinations to elderly residents on their doorstep in Qiantang district of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
A team of medical professionals man the vehicle, which provides mobile CT scan services for the elderly, especially those aged 65 and older, for people with underlying medical conditions and for those who have difficulty getting around.
The vehicle can process around 200 examinations per day. The mobile medical services are expected to reduce the risk of severe illnesses and deaths from COVID-19 infections.
According to the Qiantang district health commission, more than 12,000 residents, age 65 and older, have underlying diseases and nearly 5,000 of them need the mobile CT screening on their doorsteps.
In Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, 75 teams comprising 209 medical workers have been mobilized to provide consultations in rural areas, and detect and treat COVID-19 infections as early as possible, the city government said.
"It has become normal to offer on-site consultations, basic diagnosis and treatment in rural areas," said Ma Chunmei, who heads one of the teams. "The medical teams are focused on serving key groups. They give residents healthcare and epidemic prevention advice."