Ministry To Merge, Reorganize Public Hospitals

Ministry to merge, reorganize public hospitals

Japan's health ministry says the country has too many public hospitals and mergers or reorganizations are needed. The ministry has identified more than 400 such hospitals across the country and says it will work with regional authorities to reduce the number.

Japan has about 1,500 publicly run hospitals and the ministry says many of them have few patients and provide overlapping services.

The ministry on Thursday released the names of 424 such hospitals.

It identified 277 with especially low treatment records in cancer, perinatal, emergency care, and other fields. It said 307 of the institutions are in areas where other hospitals performing similar roles exist.

By prefecture, Hokkaido topped the ministry's redundancy list with 54 hospitals, Niigata had 22, and Miyagi 19. Nagano and Hyogo prefectures both had 15.

While the ministry has compiled the list, it says decisions about mergers and reorganizations should be decided at the local level.

It will ask local governments to set up committees to discuss the issues and report their conclusions by the end of September next year.

Observers say the debate may not go smoothly as residents are expected to oppose any plans to cut back on medical services in their communities.