A 75-year-old Saitama man died after 25 hospitals refused to admit him to their emergency rooms 36 times over two hours, citing lack of beds or doctors to treat him, an official said Tuesday.
The man, who lived alone in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, called an ambulance after suffering breathing problems at his home in January.
Paramedics rushed to his house but all 25 hospitals in the area told them, some more than once, that they could not accept the man because they did not have enough doctors or any free beds, a local city official said.
The ambulance eventually made a 20-minute drive to a hospital in Ibaraki Prefecture, but the man was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The cause of death has not been made public.
One of the paramedics said they had never experienced “a patient being rejected so many times.”
The city of Kuki has asked hospitals in the region to improve their emergency room capacity, the official said.
Public health care is heavily subsidized and generally of a high global standard.
But commentators warn that with a population that is living longer and with fewer young people entering the workforce, health care providers could become increasingly strained over the coming decades.