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Doctor shortages now affecting rural Okinawa towns, villages

Date Posted: 2005-03-25

Doctors are refusing to work in the rural areas of Okinawa.

Citing poor pay and limited numbers of patients, doctors want only to work in the cities, causing rural areas service problems.

Emergency patients and pregnant mothers are having difficulty getting treatment. Hospitals are closing because there are no doctors. Even with hospitals remaining open, some specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology are closing. The Northern Okinawa Hospital is seeing this happen next month, and Kume Jima Hospital’s doctors are disappearing in the summer, forcing closure at least of some clinics.

In the north, a doctor says “we have only two or three patients in one month, so from next month what shall we don. We’ll send them to Nago Hospital or Okinawa City’s Chubu Hospital, despite it being too far.” It takes several hours to get to the hospitals from some areas.

With normal pregnancies, 90% of the deliveries are easy. The other 10% concern doctors. They say 90 babies are born each month in the northern part of the island, with only three doctors to serve them. Nago City has two obstetricians and one is farther north.

That changes next month, with no northern area doctor. Public officials are telling pregnant women to travel to Okinawa City’s Chubu Hospital. Patients are appealing for governmental help, saying it’s simply too far to go.

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