Tokyo hospitals to add five foreign doctors for expats


Staff Writer

The government will allow five non-Japanese doctors to practice at four hospitals in Tokyo from around December. Their patients will be limited to non-Japanese who agree to pay full costs themselves.

The move, proposed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and approved by the central government on June 29, is part of a “special zone” deregulation initiative spearheaded by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Currently, doctors from the U.S., the U.K., France and Singapore can practice in Japan without a Japanese medical license under bilateral agreements with those nations, but they can only see patients of their own nationality.

“As we have an Olympics coming up in Tokyo, we decided it is necessary to create an environment where foreign nationals can live in Tokyo without anxiety,” said Takafumi Kobayashi, head of the national strategic special zone coordination division at the metropolitan government.

The plan will see foreign practitioners placed at institutions across the capital. St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward, as well as its branch clinic St. Luke’s MediLocus in Chiyoda Ward, will each hire an American doctor. Juntendo University Hospital in Bunkyo Ward will get two doctors, one American and one French, while Keio University Hospital in Shinjuku Ward will acquire one British doctor.

The doctors, whose names and areas of expertise have yet to be announced, will be allowed to see patients of any nationality except Japanese. Foreign nationals covered by Japan’s public health insurance scheme can seek their services but will not be able to use the insurance, Kobayashi said.

St. Luke’s projects that the hospital group’s two American doctors will see a total of 8,640 people in 2016.

Kobayashi said the metropolitan government will consider expanding the list of such doctors if hospitals so request.

Tatsuo Hatta, a member of an advisory panel headed by the prime minister that took up the metropolitan government’s special zone request, said that, though small, it is a major step toward breaking down the regulatory barriers in the heavily protected health care sector — and infusing it with diversity and fresh ideas.

“Until now, non-Japanese doctors who were here under the bilateral agreements were of little use because they were only allowed to see patients from the same country they came from,” said Hatta, economist and president of the Fukuoka Prefecture-based think tank Asian Growth Research Institute.

  • Firas Kraïem

    “The doctors […] will be allowed to see patients of any nationality except Japanese.”

    Yeah better not contaminate Japanese minds with 21st-century medicine. :D Seriously, what is the government so afraid of? The Japanese are the best anyway, right?

  • jcbinok

    On one hand, I can understand Japanese reticence to throwing open their doors to the world, what with terrorism, drugs, guns, cheap rice and dairy, etc. But, if you’re going to let foreign doctors practice in your hospitals, how can you rationalize excluding them from national health insurance? That’s like asking a woman out to dinner, then wanting to pay betsu-betsu.

  • Ponta Vedra

    Wow! FIVE whole doctors! At four hospitals! For all of Tokyo! And despite paying fully for insurance, I can’t use it to see any of them, and have to shell out tons of money for it! I am SO EXCITED!

    Are they kidding? Really?

    With this, the most vital of services, and with foreign residents paying equal to any Japanese citizen for those services, the best they can do—under the pressure of an Olympics, no less—is to provide a whole five doctors for 400,000 foreign residents? Let’s say only half of those pay for national or social insurance to the Japanese government—that should account for many HUNDREDS of doctors, not just five.

    If you can’t withstand the horror of having non-Japanese serve in the positions, how about just hiring Japanese doctors who can actually speak English?

    Nope. Can’t be bothered. Thanks for your tax money though, suckers.

    • Sara2586d


    • Steve Jackman

      It just goes to show the delusional Alice in Wonderland world the Japanese live in. Their world is completely devoid of any rationality or common sense and is totally divorced from reality. Well done, Japan!

    • Bernadette Soubirous

      Quit complaining,

      In most countries you are just out of luck if you cant speak the language.

      SHANGHAI—When Lin Tao was diagnosed with a lethal spinal tumor in 2012, doctors in Hangzhou told him he had one option in China—surgery that would replace two sections of his vertebrae and might leave him paralyzed.

      Mr. Lin and his wife pursued a second option.

      The couple flew to San Francisco and paid $70,000 out of pocket at UCSF Medical Center, where doctors recommended that Mr. Lin try radiation therapy rather than surgery. Now, his family says his tumor is gone and he can still walk.

      Mr. Lin thus joined an emerging group of Chinese going overseas in search of treatment that is either unavailable or ineffective in China. It is next to impossible to pin down the number of such “medical tourists.”

    • HayesOose

      Actually, it seems the problem, for some, is “the horror” of being seen by a Japanese doctor.

      I call those people idiots, not just gaijin.

      And the majority of Japanese doctors I’ve been to in fifteen years of living in Japan, including my dentist, speak English, even when they deny being able to.

      Imagine a Japanese person (or Chinese, or Portuguese, for that matter) whinging at a lack of American or British doctors who can speak their language.

      One all too common characteristic of the American/British (generally white) gaijin, aka “expat”: Reflexive sense of entitlement.

  • DrHanibalLecter

    Reading an article like this, made tears of laughter run down my cheeks…

    What a strange country… Nurturing an utterly childish idea of superiority, yet never missing a single opportunity of making a fool of itself.