Week 3: 病院 (Hospitals)


Hospitals are an important part of the Japanese healthcare system, and this article from Japan Health Info, a site dedicated to explaining the Japanese health system to expatriates, is fully detailed in its description of how hospitals are usually run in the country. As found in the NPR article from Week 1, hospital stays can be long, but, occasionally, going to the hospital might be even more convenient than going to a clinic to get treatment. First consultations are usually made in the morning, and appointments are not required, while afternoon appointments are usually only for returning patients. Unless a person has an emergency, they cannot use the hospital on the weekends or public holidays, and even then, there is a chance that the hospital might not accept the patient. Japan’s health insurance usually pays 70% of bills, while 30% is left to the patient. On top of that, patients without doctors’ referrals are often charged fees (usually ¥2,000-5,000). Wait times are generally long enough to require number cards for both the consultation itself and for payment, the latter of which is cash-only much of the time.

This week’s vocabulary:

救急車 (きゅうきゅうしゃ): ambulance
Ahh! I have bad diarrhea, and I saw blood! Call an ambulance!

内科医 (ないかい): physician (internal medicine)
いつもフラフラですか? 心臓の大切なことですから、内科医に行けばいいの?
Are you always feeling tired/groggy? For the sake of your heart, you should probably see a physician about that.

医療費 (いりょうひ): medical bill/expenses
I think Mr. Tanaka’s high blood pressure treatment is expensive. How come he is able to pay his medical bills so quickly?

待合室 (まちあいしつ): waiting room
1時間後: お待たせしました。待ち合わせのために、待合室をお出し下さい。
One hour later: I am sorry to have kept you waiting. Please leave the waiting room for your appointment.

患者 (かんじゃ): patient
I met an interesting patient. He was an old man, and would always forget about healthy things, but has not died even now.

In spite of Japan’s high standard of care and a healthcare system that (in theory) provides good care for all citizens, its hospitals are another matter. They do not seem to compare favorably to those in a Western countries. The hours might seem archaic, fees are high, payment must be in cash only most of the time, and there are certainly long stays. Although these and other areas might be particularly unfavorable, there is, actually, also much to like about the system. The fact that Japan’s health insurance pays for the bulk of the cost would also be unthinkable in the US, and in Japan, specialists can usually be seen directly, rather than, say, after a wellness check. The inconveniences do seem to factor highly into public perception of the system, however, with a major recent story of a man dying after being rejected 36 times from 25 different hospitals gaining particular notoriety. Indeed, thousands of hospital patients have been rejected at least three times from hospital treatment. That is certainly a concerning low point in an otherwise cheap and decent healthcare system, at least thus far.

Other sources on the subject:


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