The Abe administration said Monday it wants to slash hospital beds nationwide by more than 10 percent from the number in 2013 to 1.19 million in 2025, hoping it will curb ballooning medical costs as the population grows older.
The plan was included in a report on the desirable number of sickbeds, under the theory that too many can encourage elderly people to stay in hospitals when there is no need. As of 2013, Japan had about 1.35 million hospital beds.
The report calls on 41 of the 47 prefectures to reduce beds. Nine are supposed to cut the number by more than 30 percent, including Kagoshima, Toyama and Kumamoto.
On the other side of the coin, the report says urban areas such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kanagawa prefectures should have more beds because of an expected sharp rise in the population of elderly people.
While seeking to reduce the number of places available in hospitals, the government will step up efforts so that around 300,000 patients will be able to receive medical treatment at home or in nursing-care facilities, officials said.
The content of the report, which is not binding, is expected to be reflected in regional medical plans to be compiled by prefectural governments.
The government hopes the reduction will address regional disparities in hospital beds and contribute to halting the increase of medical fees, which reach ¥40 trillion each year.
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