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OSAKA — The Osaka District Court sentenced the former head of the Yasuda hospital group to three years in prison April 14 and fined him 1 million yen for swindling local governments out of 590 million yen.

Lawyers for Mototaka Yasuda, 77, immediately appealed the ruling. The court also gave two-year terms, suspended for four years, to Saburo Konishi, 68, former chief accountant of Yasuda Hospital, and to Emiko Omura, 50, former head nurse at the hospital, for conspiring with Yasuda.

“Judging from medical records, Yasuda’s purpose of offering medical treatment lay solely in moneymaking,” said presiding Judge Shunsuke Imai. “For him, patients were nothing but tools.”

Prosecutors had demanded five years’ imprisonment with a 2 million yen fine for Yasuda and two years’ imprisonment each for Konishi and Omura. Since 1982, Yasuda headed three now-defunct Osaka hospitals until his arrest in July following a raid of the facilities by prosecutors and prefectural police.

Of the three, two hospitals — Yasuda Hospital and Osaka Ensei Hospital — submitted papers to the Osaka Prefectural Government falsely reporting a greater number of nurses than the institutions actually hired and that four nurses were assigned to every patient.

Based on the report, local governments provided Yasuda Hospital with about 260 million yen and Osaka Ensei Hospital with about 330 million yen in nursing fees, the ruling said. Licenses for the two hospitals, as well as Yamatogawa Hospital, a mental hospital, were revoked in October.

Prior to the ruling, Yasuda had pleaded guilty but asked that his punishment be mitigated, citing cancer, which he said leaves him little time left to live. In the hope of receiving a suspended sentence, in February he voluntarily returned 2.4 billion yen that his hospitals unfairly received as medical fees from local governments, Yasuda said.

Yasuda told the court in a previous hearing that he sold gold and platinum he owned in related business firms to raise the 2.4 billion yen. But according to Kyodo News, the hospitals’ corporate registration records and other documents show that Yasuda could not have borrowed money to finance the 2.4 billion yen based on the hospitals’ assets.

In the courtroom April 14, Yasuda appeared in a wheelchair and showed little response to the proceedings. Former nurses and other employees of the Yasuda hospital group filled the gallery seats.

A 52-year-old nurse who worked at Yamatogawa Hospital for seven years said, “Wrongdoing should be punished. But I feel kind of confused because I did my best to take care of the patients.”

Many of the inpatients at Yasuda’s hospitals were dependent on public welfare, receiving no assistance from their relatives. As the hospitals also accommodated patients with mental diseases, visits to inpatients were rare or strictly controlled.

Miyuki Yamamoto, chief of an Osaka-based group protecting the human rights of mental disease patients, said, “Whether or not we can prevent scams like this from happening again depends on how much medical authorities can pick up the concerns of inpatients.”

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