Medical institutions to be obligated to consult prefectures on dealing with infectious diseases

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Prime Minister’s Office

Draft amendments to the Infectious Diseases Law would require all medical institutions to respond to calls by prefectural governments to conclude agreements with them regarding the provision of medical care for infectious diseases.

The government will submit the proposed amendments, the full details of which were revealed on Tuesday, to the extraordinary Diet session in autumn, in anticipation of future infectious disease crises. Based on the lessons learned from the novel coronavirus crisis, the amendments aim to better deal with the situation through the concerted efforts of all medical institutions in Japan.

According to the amendments, prefectural governments are to formulate their plans in advance, including one for the number of hospital beds to be secured, and to conclude an agreement on medical measures with medical institutions regarding provision of hospital beds, outpatient care, and home-visit medical treatment.

The agreement is to be concluded through mutual consent, but medical institutions cannot refuse to discuss the matter with the prefectural government. If an agreement cannot be reached, the governor will hear the opinions of the prefecture’s expert medical council. The governor and medical institutions will then be obligated to respect the council’s opinions.

In the event of a crisis, the governor can recommend or instruct medical institutions to provide medical care in line with the agreement, and if there is a violation of these instructions, the name of the medical institution can be made public.

Medical institutions that have certain statuses may have those statuses revoked by the governor if they violate the agreement. Such statuses include being a hospital with specific functions, being a regional medical care support hospital, or being a social medical corporation responsible for infectious disease medical care that is of high public interest.

In addition, public-run and public-interest medical institutions, hospitals with special functions, and regional medical care support hospitals will be obligated to provide medical care in the event of a crisis. The governor is to notify these medical institutions of the medical care they should provide in such cases.

The government will aim to have at least the main parts of the revised bill, including the conclusion of agreements and the obligation of medical institutions to provide medical care, take effect in April 2024.