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Seven people died and two were left comatose in 11 accidents involving respirators at 10 medical institutions nationwide in fiscal 2001, according to a health ministry report released Tuesday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry submitted the report to the House of Representatives in the morning at the request of a Japanese Communist Party lawmaker, Hideo Kijima.

It is the first time the ministry has specified the number of respirator-related accidents, but the report fails to identify the 10 medical institutions involved.

Most of the accidents occurred when respirator and tracheal tubes became disconnected, the report says. The 11 accidents accounted for more than 10 percent of the 93 medical accidents in the fiscal year that ended March 31.

Respirator-related accidents ranked third after accidents that occurred during surgery and nonsurgical medical treatment.

Based on the report, the ministry summoned national hospital officials in April and called on them to thoroughly check the use of respirators to prevent similar accidents.

Two accidents, one of which was fatal, took place at two national hospitals. The other nine occurred at eight other medical facilities, with six patients dying and two left comatose, the report shows.

Nurses are mainly responsible for monitoring respirators, but the ministry concluded this is not directly linked to the occurrence of accidents. It said it will make efforts to prevent similar accidents in the future by improving training and providing more medical staff.

National hospitals and medical facilities across the country have 3,348 respirators, 700 of them more than 10 years old.

In a survey conducted in fiscal 2000 by the ministry, 42, or about 70 percent of 61 national hospitals and medical facilities, said they have experienced respirator-related problems, including cases that did not result in accidents.

“What we are most afraid of is that the medical staff will become used to hearing the alarm go off and tend to think it is not an emergency,” said Takashi Otsuka, chairman of a group of parents in Osaka Prefecture whose children are on respirators.

Otsuka said increasing medical staff and training for the use of respirators is necessary, but he also called for medical personnel to respond appropriately when problems occur.

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