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Japan Medical Assoc. to probe public health centers' refusal to conduct coronavirus tests

In this Feb. 6, 2020 file photo, an employee at the Tokyo Metropolitan Komagome Hospital in the capital's Bunkyo Ward is seen setting up signs asking those who have symptoms such as a fever and coughs to use a different entrance. (Mainichi/Go Kumagai)

TOKYO -- Cases nationwide in which member physicians of the Japan Medical Association (JMA) determined that a patient required testing for the new coronavirus but was denied a test by a public health center would be investigated, the association announced on Feb. 26.

The JMA will gather information through the medical associations of each prefecture, and will demand that public health centers rectify the situation if they are found to have taken inappropriate action.

Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare stipulates certain criteria for people to be subject to testing for the new coronavirus, such as a history of travel to Wuhan, China, where the virus is said to have originated, and close contact with someone who has contracted the virus. But the ministry has left the rest to the discretion of local governments. However, according to JMA Executive Board Member Satoshi Kamayachi, a doctor in Tokyo sought coronavirus testing of a patient in February, but was denied by the relevant public health center. "Doctors are seeking tests on patients they believe are necessary with the full understanding that there are restrictions on the number that can be conducted," Kamayachi said.

As a general rule, samples from patients are currently collected at specialized outpatient facilities that patients are referred to by consultation centers set up by public health centers and other facilities. Asked about the possibility of having sample collections carried out at general medical facilities, Kamayachi expressed caution, saying, "There's a risk of the virus spreading, so it would require sufficient infection control precautions."

(Japanese original by Eri Misono, Lifestyle and Medical News)

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