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Hospital privatization draws more criticism

Date Posted: 2009-03-12

Okinawa Prefecture is pressing on with plans to privatize its prefecture-owned hospitals, citing financial needs, but opponents continue to argue against the concept.

The prefecture’s hospitals have amassed a collective debt of more than ¥1 billion, leading government officials to begin planning for a switch to private or municipal ownership. The latest of the prefecture’s hospitals to move into the criticism firing line is in Yaeyama, where the Prefectural Hospital is in the process of being changed to an independent corporation hospital. Local residents don’t like the idea at all.

Yaeyama’s district municipality mayors and Assemblies met this week to hear comments and complaints from constituents, most of whom insist they want the hospital to remain under Prefecture control. Citizens told officials they’re concerned private hospital managers will only be thinking about profits, and that few doctors and staff will remain concerned about patient health and needs.

Concerns have been expressed also about plans to eliminate the children’s department from the hospital once privatized. Ishigaki City’s mayor, Chiyousho Ohama, says “the prefecture is moving the burden to each municipality, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to transform the hospital into an independent corporation.” The mayor says “the hospital is better served staying prefecture-owned.” A resident testifying at the hearing asked officials “please don’t cut our life hospital only because it’s operating in the read. If you do that,” she said, it means the Prefecture doesn’t take care of our lives, and I feel very worried about this.”

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