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The Justice Ministry will have medical institutions send doctors to detention houses and prisons nationwide to provide inmates with adequate medical care, officials said Tuesday.

The dispatches, possibly starting in April in line with the manpower dispatch law, are in response to a chronic shortage of doctors at correctional facilities, the officials said.

Until now, treatment of prisoners has focused mainly on medication prescribed by physicians.

Under the new plan, specialist physicians, including brain surgeons and psychiatrists, will be dispatched to these facilities on a rotating basis, the officials said.

The plan is intended to help inmates return smoothly to society. But it remains uncertain if enough doctors will be available.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Correction Bureau, about 90 out of 188 correctional facilities have operated affiliated clinics or hospitals.

At these institutions, 291 doctors were employed as of last April, short of the 332 deemed necessary for adequate care, the bureau said.

A doctor shortage was seen at 33 correctional facilities, with no full-time doctors available at five of them, according to the bureau.

Emergency hospitals

The government endorsed a bill Tuesday to require prefectures to compile lists of hospitals that can receive emergency patients in ambulances.

The proposed revision to the fire service law is in response to a recent spate of hospitals that have refused to accept emergency patients, citing a lack of doctors or available beds. Some patients died in ambulances after being rejected by several hospitals.

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