Municipalities across the nation plan to realign 19 percent of public hospitals in a move aimed at improving those that are financially weak, a government survey showed Tuesday.
The move, being planned under reform programs devised by the municipalities by the end of March, may result in closures that leave residents in some areas without sufficient medical care.
The reform plans were worked out by 603, or 92 percent, of the 656 municipalities with public hospitals in their areas, at the request of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
The ministry called for the municipalities involved to map out reform plans based on three points — streamlining of management, promoting realignment and hospital networking, and reviewing management platforms.
The municipalities hope such a review will help clarify roles for public hospitals and improve their management. But they also fear it could mean downsizing the scale of medical services and, in some cases, lead to the closure of facilities rooted firmly in local communities.
As an example, five municipalities, including the city of Goshogawara in Aomori Prefecture, plan to realign five hospitals into one core hospital, two small hospitals and two clinics. This would reduce the 954 available hospital beds to 644.
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