The lack of facilities in a national health-care system has resulted in the death of a newborn. Japan, whose system has been cited as a model for the United States to consider, has few medical facilities in their rural areas, and the lack of obstetricians led one couple to be turned away from eight hospitals when the mother-to-be went into labor:
Japan's health minister has pledged to address the shortage of doctors in the country after a woman in labour was turned away by eight hospitals.
A ninth hospital refused to admit her even after she miscarried in an ambulance and her baby died.
The woman, who was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, lived just three minutes away from a hospital.
But she was forced to travel 70km (45 miles) by ambulance looking for a facility that would admit her.
Actually, the ninth hospital initially agreed to accept the case. However, the ambulance crashed on the way, and the woman miscarried and the baby died. After they found out what happened, that hospital then refused to admit her.
It's not the first time this has happened. Last year, a pregnant woman died under similar circumstances, only in that case twenty hospitals refused to admit her. None of them had bed space available, and Japan has a nationwide shortage of physicians, particularly in specialties such as obstetrics.
Why the shortage? Specialization costs more money, and in the Japanese system, the compensation does not make it worthwhile. Overall, compensation and malpractice costs have driven people away from studying to be physicians and surgeons. This is similar to the issues that Britain has had in the transplant specialties, first reported three years ago. Viable organ donations went to waste because the UK doesn't have enough transplant surgeons.
Japan has a somewhat different system than Britain or Canada. It allows for private insurers and facilities, but the government controls the market. It regulates prices, compensation, and the manner in which insurance operates. The effect is similar to that seen in other national health-care systems, which is that health care gets rationed through a mechanism other than patient choice. The NYU study claims that Japan has twice the beds per capita rate as the US, but that hardly explains these two instances of refusals. It also notes, probably more to the point, that Japan has one of the lowest physician per capita rates among industrialized nations, and that they spend less than seven minutes on an average for patient contacts (American doctors spend over 20 minutes).
Any system that allows a woman to die because 20 hospitals refused to treat her from lack of resources has serious problems. Any system that would refuse an emergency admission for a miscarriage in progress at nine separate facilities -- with an ambulance begging for assistance -- is not a model which we want to emulate here in the US.