A 69-year-old Japanese man injured in a traffic accident died after paramedics spent more than an hour negotiating with 14 hospitals before one admitted him, a fire department official said Wednesday.
The man, whose bicycle collided with a motorcycle in the western city of Itami, waited at the scene in an ambulance because the hospitals said they could not accept him, citing a lack of specialists, equipment, beds and staff, according to Mitsuhisa Ikemoto. One of the 14 finally admitted the man when the paramedics called it for a second time.
It was the latest in a string of recent cases in Japan in which patients were denied treatment, underscoring the country's health care woes that include a shortage of doctors.
The man, who suffered head and back injuries, initially showed stable vital signs, but his condition gradually deteriorated. He died from hemorrhagic shock about an hour and half after arriving at the hospital, Ikemoto said. Hemorrhagic shock occurs when cells do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function.
Ikemoto said the victim might have survived if a hospital accepted him more quickly. "I wish hospitals are more willing to take patients, but they have their own reasons, too," he said.
The death prompted the city to issue a directive ordering paramedics to better coordinate with an emergency call center so patients can find a hospital within 15 minutes. But hospitals still cannot be punished for turning away patients if they are already full.
The motorcyclist involved in the Jan. 20 accident was hurt too and was also denied medical care by two hospitals before one accepted him, Ikemoto said. He was recovering from his injuries.
More than 14,000 emergency patients were rejected at least three times by Japanese hospitals before getting treatment in 2007, according to the latest government survey. In the worst case, a woman in her 70s with a breathing problem was rejected 49 times in Tokyo.