Medical doctors are 4.6 times more accessible in Tokyo than in Ibaraki Prefecture, which has the lowest availability of doctors among all 47 prefectures, according to an index released Tuesday by the Finance Ministry, attesting to a growing shortage of regional physicians.
The index shows the availability of doctors in each prefecture in fiscal 2006 calculated on the basis of population as well as area to reflect local access to doctors, such as the travel distance for visiting a hospital, the ministry said.
By using a base figure of 1 as a national average for the number of doctors for each prefecture, the index showed high figures for prefectures with big cities — 3.19 for Tokyo, the highest rate, 2.43 for Osaka, 1.53 for Kanagawa, 1.45 for Fukuoka and 1.33 for Kyoto.
In contrast, readings were low for regional prefectures without large cities — 0.70 for Ibaraki, 0.74 each for Iwate and Aomori, and 0.76 each for Niigata and Fukushima.
The number of doctors increased 14.4 percent over the decade through fiscal 2006, but also saw a rise in regional differences in the accessibility of physicians.
The ministry presented the data at Tuesday’s meeting of the Fiscal System Council, an advisory panel to the finance minister, and will consider reviewing the medical fee reimbursement system in favor of rural prefectures to narrow the gaps, officials said.
Despite an overall increase in doctors, there has been an acute shortage of physicians in certain fields, particularly obstetrics and pediatrics, indicating the uneven sector-by-sector distribution of doctors has expanded.
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