Editorial: State subsidies for local hospitals imperative during pandemic

September 4 , 2020

With the pandemic continuing to rage, medical institutions throughout the country are facing bankruptcy and greater state assistance must be provided to keep them solvent. Komeito submitted a proposal to the Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato and Finance Minister Taro Aso on September 2 calling for the urgent dispensation of aid.

Among the proposal’s highlights are special funding for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients outside the major cities, paying a higher subsidy for the securing of hospital beds and assisting those that engage in infection prevention initiatives while providing their communities with regular medical services.

According to a survey conducted by the Japan Hospital Association, an organization comprised of 2,500 member hospitals nationwide, more than 80% of hospitals treating coronavirus patients were operating at a loss, while more than 60% of all member-institutions reported the same. The occupancy rate for hospital beds at COVID-19 wards are subject to significant swings but must still be maintained even if these beds remain unfilled; meanwhile, special treatment facilities and special disinfection procedures are costly in terms of both resources and manpower.

While the government has taken steps to offset the financial burden, the prolonging of the pandemic means that expenses will continue to rise. And the onset of the influenza season will certainly exacerbate matters.

The latest Komeito proposal was developed after extensive hearings with hospital management officials.

Another factor cited for the financial distress is the fact that many people are simply avoiding hospitals during the pandemic. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reports that in May, the number of people visiting medical facilities throughout Japan fell by more than 20%. Komeito’s proposal also seeks special provisions to encourage people to undertake their routine health exams and adhere to standard immunization timetables.