Home > Focus on Japan 2007 > It’s a Wonder She Didn’t Die

It’s a Wonder She Didn’t Die

August 30th, 2007

This in the news today:

[A] 38-year-old woman, who was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, was being driven to a hospital near the western city of Osaka after she suffered from stomach cramps and bleeding, according to Kyodo News agency and other local media.

Nine hospitals closer to her home in Nara prefecture (state), over 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, had earlier refused to admit her, saying they were full, the reports said.

Her water broke two hours into the journey. Ten minutes later, the ambulance collided with a minivan.

There is just so much wrong with this story, but it reinforces my apprehension about ever needing an ambulance in Japan. Honestly, unless I feel it’s necessary, I will seriously consider hailing a taxi instead, especially if there is nothing that can be fixed before getting to the hospital in any case. At least taxis drive aggressively. Ambulances here tend to be rather slow and over-cautious.

So, why did the ambulance in question get into the accident? It’s possible that the driver was panicked by the patient being in such dire straits, with so many hospitals refusing service and the only accepting one so far away. But there’s even money on the bet that it wasn’t the ambulance driver’s fault.

Here in Japan, I have noticed an alarming disregard for emergency vehicles by drivers. Every time I see a fire truck or ambulance approach an intersection with sirens blaring and lights blazing, I stop immediately–and am always shocked by how many people don’t stop. Just a few weeks ago, I was at an intersection near Tokyo Dome, and an ambulance was clearly, audibly and visibly, approaching from the cross street. I had stopped early, but most traffic continued until the ambulance came to a stop at the intersection, shouting pleas over their loudspeaker for traffic to clear. Despite this, a car simply ran through the intersection, making the ambulance wait… and then, to my shock, a city bus drove through after the car as if nothing unusual was going on. No way the bus driver did not see the ambulance. This was egregious, even for Tokyo. And yet, I shouldn’t be shocked, as I see this kind of thing all too often.

That’s why I have the feeling that the minivan driver was at least partly at fault: I can so easily imagine the driver simply deciding that where he was going at 5:10 am was more important than some ambulance.

So what happened to the poor woman then?

After the accident occurred, the hospital in Takatsuki refused to admit the woman, with one official telling ambulance workers, “Treatment is difficult as the woman has already had a miscarriage. We also have an emergency operation.”

Another two hospitals refused admission and after another request the initial hospital in Takatsuki decided to admit her.

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  1. K. Engels
    August 30th, 2007 at 11:16 | #1

    I think you’ve just discovered the newest talking point that right wingers will be using to prove that there is nothing wrong with the health care system in the US.

  2. Luis
    August 30th, 2007 at 12:38 | #2

    You may be right, but of course it would be unadulterated bullcrap. There is nothing to lead us to believe that socialized medicine was responsible for this, and it is not as if this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the U.S. But that’s their argument, isn’t it: to point out every flaw in medical systems in other countries, and claim that socialized medicine is the culprit. Of course, every flaw they point to applies just as much, if not more, to the U.S.–higher taxes exist in the U.S. in the form of expensive health insurance, the cost of covering all of which that is not covered by insurance, and the cost of falling ill because one cannot receive treatment; long lines, same as in the U.S.; failures like the one in the story above happen in the U.S. as well; and so on. The main difference between health care in the U.S. and health care in countries with socialized medicine is that in the end, people in countries with socialized medicine are covered more thoroughly, get more constant and consistent health care, and pay less overall. It’s that “in the end” and “overall” cost savings that the right-wingers hang on; they ignore the non-tax costs inherent in the U.S. system.

    How much does a dead child cost? In the right-wing view, very little, or else it was the parents’ fault for not making more money to treat the child well enough. But mostly, I think, right-wingers just ignore the dead child altogether. After all, it’s not like it’s a fetus or something.

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