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Don't close children's hospitals!

"Do not close Tokyo's three children's hospitals in Kiyose, Hachioji, and Umegaoka!"

As the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly's Health and Welfare Committee was set to discuss and approve a bill to shut down Tokyo's three hospitals for children on March 19, parents, patients, and residents near the hospitals assembled outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office on March 17 to stage a protest.

A 40-year-old mother said, "It's not fair to have it decided on after just three days of discussion. We need the hospitals."

Japanese Communist Party Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member Sone Hajime joined the sit-in protest to encourage the participants saying, "The metropolitan government is unable to explain why it wants to close these hospitals or show an alternative plan to the closure. The JCP will work harder to keep the hospitals."

Umegaoka Hospital is the nation's largest institute that provides mental care for children, including treatments for emotional disorders from child abuse, developmental disorders such as autism, and integration dysfunction syndrome. Every year, about 40,000 children come for consultation and treatment at this hospital.

Equipped with nine neonatal intensive care units (NICU), Hachioji Children's Hospital accepts 25,000 inpatients and 26,000 outpatients a year.

Kiyose Children's Hospital provides emergency medical services for more than 10,000 children a year.

Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro, the proponent of the bill, says that after closing down the three hospitals, a new medical center for children will be established in Fuchu City. However, he has not presented the public with any plan regarding how Tokyo will secure a sufficient number of doctors and beds as well as NICUs. It will take many people more than an hour to get to a new center.

- Akahata, March 18, 2009

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