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A scandal involving Comsn Inc., the nation’s largest nursing-care services operator, shows that the government and the public must be on guard against operators that put profits before all else. It also highlights the need to improve working conditions for nursing-care employees to ensure the field attracts a sufficient number of qualified people.

Comsn fraudulently listed people such as nursing-care workers who had already quit or those working in other places on the payrolls of eight planned nursing-care centers in order to obtain permits to open them. Because a discovery of these fraudulent acts would lead to the nullification of the permits, once Comsn’s fraud was uncovered the operator applied to voluntarily close the eight centers before the health ministry could mete out such a punishment and leave a black mark on its record.

In response the ministry decided to invoke a clause in the revised nursing-care insurance law that says that a nursing-care services operator involved in wrongdoings cannot have licenses renewed for five years. The clause took effect in April 2006. The ministry has instructed prefectural governments not to renew six-year licenses for 1,655 nursing-care centers operated by Comsn — about 80 percent of its operations — when they expire between April 2008 and March 2012. The ministry’s decision is expected to affect about 60,000 customers receiving nursing-care services from Comsn.

Comsn’s parent company, staffing agency Goodwill Group Inc., had announced that Comsn’s nursing business would be transferred to another group company so that customers can continue to receive services. A public outcry led the health ministry to tell Comsn that the transfer should be frozen. Goodwill decided to sell Comsn to an outside company.

Two other major nursing-care services operators have also been found to have fraudulently asked for compensation for services. The ministry must take utmost care so that Comsn customers will receive adequate services from all parties involved. Nursing-care services operators need to set up an internal system to check compliance with regulations. The government also must work out measures or revise the law to prevent a recurrence of wrongdoing.

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