It is a leader of the industrialized world, a scientific and technological powerhouse with a robust economy, a vigorous democracy and guaranteed universal health care for all its citizens.
Yet Japan increasingly struggles to make good on that promise, as hospitals, many of them privately owned, have begun shutting down their emergency wards due to rising costs and staffing shortages.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that 235 hospitals in Japan have stopped accepting emergency patients in the last two years, and 20 have closed their doors for good.
At issue is a lack of doctors willing to work overnight shifts, and private owners who have found hospitals, especially in rural areas, to be unprofitable.
“200 hospitals have ended emergency care over past two years”
Asahi Shimbun/Agence France-Presse, January 16, 2008