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65% of Japan's medical institutions demand patients have guarantor: survey

A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has revealed that about two-thirds of medical institutions in Japan demanded patients provide a guarantor in order to be hospitalized, and of those facilities, a little under 10 percent declined the admittance of patients without guarantors -- a practice that may be illegal.

    The study was conducted by the ministry's research team led by Zentaro Yamagata, a professor at the University of Yamanashi, at 1,291 hospitals and medical institutions across Japan from September to October in 2017, with a response rate of 21 percent.

    Following the results of the survey, the ministry in April this year ordered prefectural governments to provide guidance to medical institutions, since it is legal to decline medical examinations only when there is an absence of a doctor, or when a doctor is ill. Declining admission due to the lack of a guarantor infringes on the Medical Practitioners' Act.

    Sixty-five percent of medical institutions said they ask for a guarantor at the time of admission, compared to 23.9 percent of facilities which answered that they did not. When asked the reasons for demanding a guarantor, with multiple answers accepted, 87.8 percent said, "to pay for hospitalization costs;" 84.9 percent replied, "to have a contact in case of an emergency;" 67.2 percent said, "to have someone to accept the patient afterward;" and 55.8 percent responded, "to obtain consent to medical treatment."

    The survey also revealed that some 8.2 percent of medical institutions that demanded a guarantor declined patients who could not provide one, while 75.7 percent responded that they did admit patients without a guarantor and 10.7 percent said they used a guarantee program offered by the Japan National Council of Social Welfare.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Medical Welfare News Department)

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