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Nearby island searches for doctors, specialists

Date Posted: 2005-03-11

Kume Island Hospital needs doctors, and is appealing to Okinawa Prefecture to take responsibility for helping.

The public hospital is officially operated by the Prefecture, but in real terms is administered by Kume Jima’s own association headed by Director Kemkou Taira. The hospital operates currently with five fulltime doctors.

“We want the prefecture to take responsibility,” says Taira, “because the prefecture should take care of both doctors and patients.” The prefecture says it’s not in a position to do more. A spokesman said “I hope you understand we’re in a hard situation, and every prefecture-owned hospital has a lack of doctors. We can’t send five fulltime doctors this year, because the budget has money only to send three doctors for fulltime work, and two others parttime.”

Next year will be more ominous, the spokesman said, because “we don’t have even one doctor programmed. We don’t know about the other four.” He noted the Director is the only one now forecast to be on the payroll.” Kume Jima Public Hospital opened in 2000, and is operating specialties in internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, orthopedics, opthamology and psychiatry.

Prefecture hospital directors have held an emergency meeting to discuss what can be done for Kume Jima. “It’s difficult to send the five doctors fulltime. Even three doctors will be difficult this year.” Patients are frustrated too, and don’t want to comment for fear of making things worse. They are aware other hospital have budget and doctor shortages too. The idea now is to find a way to independently hire and pay doctors for their small island communities.

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