• Kyodo

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A 69-year-old man hurt in a traffic accident in Hyogo Prefecture died last month after being refused treatment by 14 hospitals, a local fire department said Wednesday, providing yet another sign that the nation’s emergency medical care services are failing.

The man was on a bicycle when he collided with a motorcycle in Itami at around 10:15 p.m. on Jan. 20. After arriving at the scene five minutes later, rescue workers gave the man first aid while seeking a hospital for about an hour.

But 14 hospitals in Hyogo and Osaka prefectures rejected the man because of a lack of specialists or empty beds, the fire department said.

The man was eventually taken to one of the 14 hospitals, in Itami, at around 11:30 p.m. and his condition abruptly deteriorated. The hospital tried to transfer him to a place that could give better treatment but was rejected by two hospitals.

The man was already in extremely critical condition and too fragile to be moved when a third hospital accepted their request. He died at the Itami hospital of hemorrhagic shock three hours after the accident.

The 29-year-old motorcyclist was taken to a university hospital in Nishinomiya, Hyogo, as soon as his rescuers determined that his injuries were more severe. He survived.

In December 2007, the Hyogo Prefectural Government instructed local municipalities to have their fire departments assist paramedics in finding hospitals in urgent cases if the paramedics cannot find one within 30 minutes.

An Itami fire official said they were too busy that night to help. “There were four other emergency calls in the same time frame of that night and as a result we were unable to find a hospital (for the man who died).”

What remains unclear, however, is whether the man’s death can be associated with his delayed transfer, the department said.

The incident is the latest in a growing number of rejection cases. Hospitals and other medical institutions are increasingly declining to accept patients who need emergency treatment because they lack medical staff or proper equipment and facilities.

In one notable case that stirred public outcry, a pregnant woman from Tokyo, suffering a brain hemorrhage, was rejected by eight hospitals and died three days after a Caesarean section was performed so she could undergo brain surgery last October.

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