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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 April 4 - 10  > 70% of municipalities are without obstetrics care in Nara Pref.
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2007 April 4 - 10 [WELFARE]

70% of municipalities are without obstetrics care in Nara Pref.

April 4, 2007
In August last year, Takahashi Mika, 32, sank into a coma during delivery at a hospital in Nara Prefecture. The hospital immediately looked for another hospital capable of treating her. Nineteen hospitals turned down the request. Six hours later, she underwent surgery at a hospital in Osaka, a neighboring prefecture. She died about a week after the delivery.

Today, Shinsuke, Mika’s husband, says the growth of his seven-month-old son is cheering him a lot, but he still deeply regrets that Mika was unable to receive the necessary treatment in time because there was no hospital where a bed was available for her.

What worries him most today, however, is that nothing has been changed in Nara’s medical situation since then, he added.

“In this prefecture, if something goes wrong during delivery, I would die.” Many pregnant women in Nara feel such concern.

In fact, about 70 percent of municipalities in the prefecture have no obstetrics care. Worse still, in the last year alone, three major hospitals, including a prefectural hospital, suspended their service in their obstetrics departments due to a shortage of obstetricians.

Residents are criticizing the prefectural government for closing the obstetrics department in the prefectural hospital which bears special responsibility towards the public.

The Nara prefectural government is in the so-called “all-are-ruling-parties” regime led by the Liberal Democratic, Democratic, and Komei parties. It has faithfully followed the central government policies. When the central government decided to reduce the number of students admitted to medical schools, the prefectural government reduced that of a prefectural medical university.

Responding to a recent survey conducted by the Japanese Communist Party prefectural assembly members’ group, an obstetrician said, “All of us are tired out from overwork.” In Nara, one obstetrician handles 163 deliveries per year on average.

A civic group calling for the construction of a healthcare center for infants and mothers in the prefecture points out that the prefectural government has failed to fulfill its responsibility to provide appropriate obstetrical services, especially perinatal care.

In the prefecture, there are only four beds that meet the needs of intensive care for mother and unborn baby. The Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) have only 21 beds. However, because of the shortage of the Growing Care Units (GCUs) where babies who have got out of critical conditions will move to, NICUs are always full. Because of this situation, nearly 40 percent of parturients in emergencies are taken to hospitals in other prefectures.

Since 1993, the JCP together with the residents in Nara has called on the prefectural government to establish a general perinatal maternal and infant medical center.

Pressed by this movement as well as by public opinion, the prefectural government began preparing for the establishment of the center in 2008. But in February, it announced its plan to reduce the number of GCU beds to ten from 30 as initially planned.

JCP Nara Prefectural Assembly members’ group head Yamamura Sachiho said, “The ‘all-are-ruling-parties’ regime has been eager to use tax money for development projects such as highway construction while failing to improve obstetrical services. The JCP will strive to remake the prefecture so that every mother can give birth without anxieties.”

Takahashi Shinsuke said, “I’m glad to see that the JCP is conducting a campaign to improve medical services throughout Japan.”
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