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The government plans to increase enrollment at private and public university medical schools in 10 prefectures that are suffering from an acute shortage of doctors, health ministry officials said Tuesday.

The 10 prefectures are Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu and Mie.

The plan to boost the number of doctors is being worked out jointly by the health, education and internal affairs ministries. It is expected to be formalized by the end of the month, the officials said.

Over 10 years starting in fiscal 2008, the plan would allow the 10 prefectures to boost enrollment in private and public universities’ medical departments by up to 10 students a year.

In 1997, the government cut enrollment at medical schools in an effort to hold down health-care costs.

But with most doctors preferring to practice in large cities, serious regional differences in access to medical care have developed, prompting the government to reverse course.

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