In the last 10 years, 210 lawsuits and arbitration cases were brought against the government over incidents of malpractice at national hospitals and sanitariums, according to a health ministry report released Friday.

In a reply to questions from House of Representatives member Akira Nagatsuma of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said that in 52 of the cases, the courts ruled against the government, or ended in out-of-court settlements or arbitration.

The report does not include the amount of compensation or the settlement payments the government made.

The number of malpractice cases reported by national hospitals and sanitariums to the government has risen rapidly since fiscal 2000, the ministry said.

The tally covered lawsuits and arbitration cases between April 1993 and last September.

According to the ministry, between 14 and 21 such cases were filed each year between 1993 and 1998, but the number rose to between 24 and 35 from 1999 to 2001. The first half of fiscal 2002 saw 21 cases.

Government defeats in nine suits have been finalized. Out-of-court settlements were reached in 39 cases and arbitration in four, the report says.

The ministry said there were 288 cases of malpractice reported between April 1997 and September 2002. While there were only 12 to 24 reports between 1997 and 1999, the number shot up to 85 in 2000 and reached 93 in 2001.

National medical institutions have already reported 62 malpractice cases in the first half of fiscal 2002.

Many of the malpractice incidents involved simple mistakes, including excessive medication, blood-typing errors and leaving surgical devices inside patients’ bodies.

Although the report does not touch on doctors, it says only one nurse faced disciplinary action for malpractice under the national civil service law since 1999.

Citing as a reason for the low number of punishments, the ministry said, “It is believed that in most cases, (the people involved) quit before the causal relations become clear and penalties were decided.”

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