Support parents of children who need medical care from giving up jobs

Children who require medical assistance in their daily life are increasing. It is important to create an environment where they can grow up as smoothly as possible and reduce the heavy burden on their families.

It is estimated that there are about 20,000 children under 20 in Japan who require long-term medical care such as sputum suctioning or ventilators. The increase in their numbers is due to the fact that the development of medical technology has made it possible to save lives even in the case of serious illnesses.

It is desirable for these children to be cared for by nurses so that they can continue their school life. However, while there are about 50,000 kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools as well as special needs schools and other educational institutions in Japan, only 3,500 nurses are assigned to them.

In schools without nurses, parents are required to accompany such children, which places a heavy burden on the family. Many parents want to work but are unable to do so. In some cases, they have no choice but to leave their jobs.

A new law to support these children who need long-term medical care was enacted in the ordinary Diet session as lawmaker-sponsored legislation. The basic principle of the law is to have the lives of the children and their families supported by the whole of society, and it calls for the central and local governments to provide appropriate support, such as assigning nurses to schools.

The support law also clearly states its objective of “preventing families from leaving their jobs.”

Necessary measures must steadily be implemented to create a society where people can have children and raise them with peace of mind.

Local governments need to devise ways to place nurses in schools. One way could be to set up hub schools and another is to have one nurse visit multiple schools.

It is important for children to be able to receive appropriate care even if they are not accompanied by their parents.

The central government has set up a program to subsidize a part of the cost for local governments to increase the number of staffers.

Utilizing this program, the city of Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture has come up with a system to dispatch nurses from the city hospital to elementary and junior high schools attended by children requiring long-term medical care. The nurses take necessary measures at the schools based on the care instructions prepared by doctors.

The city says the responses to urgent cases have been determined in advance and accompaniment of parents will not be required in principle.

The central government should expand the subsidy program and encourage local governments by informing them of precedents.

In some areas, it may be difficult to secure nurses. Nursing-care workers can also perform such tasks as sputum suctioning if they undergo the requisite training. Human resources from a wide range of fields need to be utilized.

Prefectural governments will be required to set up support centers to provide information to families under the new support law. A system must be created so that families can get close cooperation from schools and hospitals.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 28, 2021.