There were at least 191 cases where a pregnant woman being transported by ambulance was turned away by five or more hospitals between 2004 and 2006, a survey showed Thursday, underscoring the growing hardships of ambulance crews forced to scramble by the dearth of obstetricians in the country.
The number of cases in which one or more hospitals refused to admit pregnant women, including the 191, was 2,780 in the three-year period.
In the survey, carried out by Kyodo News, the 47 prefectural governments were asked about the current situation for emergency care services for pregnant women, and 27 had responded as of Thursday.
Those figures are expected to swell in a government survey to be released shortly.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency, an organization under the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, is currently conducting its own nationwide survey through the prefectural governments after a pregnant woman in Nara Prefecture suffered a miscarriage in late August after nine hospitals refused to admit her, a case that drew nationwide attention.
In the first survey, most of the hospitals cited an inability to offer adequate care and a lack of specialized staff for refusing pregnant women for emergency treatment.
Of the 191 cases where five or more hospitals rejected pregnant women, Osaka Prefecture accounted for the largest number, at 58, followed by Chiba and Nara prefectures at 29 each and Ibaraki Prefecture at 27.
The 58 cases in Osaka Prefecture include six cases in which 10 or more hospitals refused to admit a pregnant woman, and one in which more than 20 hospitals refused to do so.
Eight out of Chiba Prefecture’s 28 cases involved refusal by more than 10 hospitals.
Ibaraki, Saitama and Nara prefectures also reported cases involving 10 or more refusals.
Explaining their decisions, hospitals in 628 of the 2,780 cases cited difficulties providing adequate care.
The survey also showed that 552 cases involved hospitals with no obstetricians on night shifts and 381 cases involving those whose staff were performing operations or were otherwise preoccupied. There were also 383 cases where obstetricians were not in, and 214 where there were no vacant beds.
There were two cases in Osaka and Nara prefectures where an ambulance took more than two hours to transport a pregnant woman to a hospital because of difficulties finding one that would accept her. One similar case was reported in Fukushima Prefecture.
Meanwhile, in Gunma Prefecture in 2004, an ambulance transported a woman who complained of abdominal pain. After being refused by four hospitals, she was taken to a fifth and was confirmed to be pregnant there.
Nearly two hours passed before she was sent to another hospital outside Gunma Prefecture because no obstetrician was available at the fifth hospital.
In Gifu Prefecture, an ambulance took about one hour to transport a woman late at night after being refused by five hospitals.