National

Hospitals with OB-GYN sections down for 24th year; pediatrics departments also in decline

Kyodo

The number of hospitals with obstetrics and gynecology departments nationwide stood at a record low 1,361 as of October last year, according to the health ministry.

Marking 24 consecutive years of decline, the tally fell 14 from the previous year and is the lowest since the survey began in 1972, it said Thursday.

The number of hospitals with pediatrics departments dropped 24 from the year before to 2,656, falling for 21 years in a row, the survey said.

Health officials attributed the drop to the declining birth rate and to harsh working conditions, including night and holiday shifts, that are contributing to a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists.

But they also said the number is declining because such departments are being consolidated in hospitals that are in regional areas.

According to the survey, the number of general hospitals excluding mental hospitals totaled 7,426, down 48 from the year before. Those equipped with a gynecology department totaled 1,176, while those with an obstetrics department totaled 185. The number of hospitals that have both departments was less than half of the 2,855 peak logged in 1972.

Meanwhile, separate statistics from the ministry show the number of hospital-employed doctors per 100,000 people rose as of October 2014, with the national average at 165.3, up three from a year ago.