Regarding the July 24 Kyodo article “Hospitals turn away patients at record rate“: The central and local governments need to exercise strong leadership in getting hospitals and the public to take steps to streamline Japan’s emergency care system.
Creating an efficient emergency-management community, where patients who are in dire need of emergency care can always receive it, is the most urgent priority.
As the Fire and Disaster Management Agency says, the major reasons for refusing hospital admission stem from a shortage of doctors. Needless to say, hospitals have to take action to treat as many emergency patients as possible.
For right now, I would like to promote public awareness that people’s efforts are needed to sustain the country’s emergency care system. Under the current national health insurance system, patients are allowed to consult any primary care physician, and even specialists, anytime, anywhere across the country.
Because access to treatment in Japan is virtually unrestrained, patients may freely use an ambulance without proof of medical necessity.
According to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2010, about 54 percent of patients who used an ambulance suffered from a minor illness. Some patients are said to go to a nighttime emergency room because they don’t want to wait for hours during the day. Some people go to hospital emergency rooms as they would to a convenience store. This situation has become a pressing public issue.
One obvious step toward optimal use of emergency medical resources is for people to find a reliable health care adviser who will provide them with practical information whenever they need it. If you are Japanese, you need to find your own family doctor.
If you come from other countries and do not speak Japanese, professional health care interpreters who are proficient in wide areas of medicine may help you decide what to do in the event of an emergency.
Something as simple as a telephone consultation might provide quick relief.
Because of a rapidly aging population and funding problems, Japan’s health care system is on the verge of collapse. Japanese people need to take reasonable steps toward supporting the system’s sustainability. Resolving the issue of how to reform the country’s emergency care system is no exception.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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