SELLOFF TRIGGERED BY WEAK FINANCES

Fukuoka to privatize all prefecture-run hospitals

Kyodo

In a nationwide first, all five hospitals run by Fukuoka Prefecture will be privatized by April as the institutions struggle with financial difficulties.

Three of the five hospitals were privatized as of April 2005. The prefecture is working to find buyers for the other two, prefectural sources said.

In addition to their financial difficulties, hospitals run by the prefecture play a less important health-care role due to the expansion of university hospitals in the area.

Nevertheless, the privatization has drawn criticism.

“It is unclear whether (the hospitals) will be able to maintain medical quality after being privatized because they may focus more on (business) management,” said Kei Koyamada, head of the Japan Municipal Hospital Association.

According to the association, 16 municipal hospitals in Japan were transferred to the private sector between 1998 and 2006, and four are being considered for privatization.

Limited info on Web

Prefectural governments will post doctors’ resumes and other information about all hospitals and dental clinics on their Web sites starting next spring, health ministry officials said Monday, but malpractice information and patient survival rates may not be included.

Officials with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the Web sites will include brief resumes of physicians and the services they offer, and information on the types of midcareer training given by hospitals to their staff physicians.

Whether a medical facility has taken steps to make medical records available to patients seeking a second opinion will also be included.

The ministry has not decided whether to require the disclosure of such information as medical facilities’ malpractice and treatment records — the number of surgeries performed, the average length of hospitalization and the survival rates of patients five years after a medical procedure, but officials appear reluctant to include such information.