Emergency care boost budgeted

The health ministry will increase the number of emergency medical-care facilities to treat stroke and heart attack victims, hoping to lower the mortality rate of those patients by 25 percent within 10 years, ministry officials said Tuesday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has put in a fiscal 2005 budget request for funds to set up more comprehensive emergency-care units and to increase the use of automated external defibrillators, used to restart the heart, the officials said.

In recent years, an increase in the elderly population has meant a rise in the number of people having strokes and heart attacks.

Current figures show that heart disease ranks second after cancer as the leading cause of death in Japan, with the mortality rate at 120 per 100,000 people, while strokes are third, with about 100 deaths per 100,000 people.

The number of stroke victims is estimated at 1.37 million. Immediate treatment is needed for survival or to reduce the severity of paralysis caused by brain hemorrhaging.

The ministry wants to increase the number of intensive care units that can treat acute strokes.

According to the officials, there are 170 hospitals nationwide with large emergency centers, but only about 30 are equipped to deal with strokes.

An estimated 910,000 patients suffer from ischemic heart disease, caused by an obstruction in the blood vessels.

To increase the survival rate from heart attacks, the ministry also plans to increase the number of coronary-care units, the officials said.

The ministry has also held public workshops on how to operate a defibrillator, which can be used by anyone who is certified, in an effort to improve its emergency medical-care system.