Cabinet OK’s draft law revision to require hospitals to provide infectious disease care

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, heads for a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Friday.

The Cabinet on Friday approved draft legislation to revise the Infectious Diseases Control Law to require certain medical institutions to provide infectious disease care, in preparation for a future pandemic.

Based on the lessons of the novel coronavirus crisis, the legal amendment is aimed to enable medical institutions nationwide to respond to a new outbreak of infectious diseases in a concerted manner. The Cabinet also approved a draft revision to the Hotel Business Law to make it mandatory for hotel guests to take infection control measures.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there have been cases in which some prefectures were unable to secure hospital beds as planned. In light of that situation, medical institutions — such as public hospitals, advanced treatment hospitals and regional core hospitals that support family doctors — will be required to provide infectious disease care under the revised Infectious Diseases Control Law.

The revised law will also likely oblige all medical institutions in the nation to discuss arrangements on medical care if requested by their prefectural governments. Agreements on the arrangements are expected to specify how to respond to infectious diseases in the event of an outbreak, regarding the acceptance of inpatients and outpatients and the provision of medical care to patients staying at home.

If a medical institution fails to take steps in line with the agreement, the prefectural government can issue advisories and instructions to the institution, and announce its name under the revised law. For advanced treatment hospitals and regional core hospitals, their prefectural governments also can revoke their status in case of such disobedience.

The central government expects about 1,500 medical institutions to conclude agreements. About 500 of them are also expected to sign an agreement concerning an initial response in order to strengthen measures in the early stages of an outbreak. The draft law revision calls for a system to support those 500 institutions by having prefectural governments and other entities compensate them for lost revenue if earnings related to infectious diseases care fall below pre-outbreak levels. The central government aims to put these legal revisions into force in April 2024.

The draft amendment also seeks a requirement for medical institutions to make efforts to submit information on patients online in order to reduce the burden on public health centers. It also calls for establishing a framework under which the central government can request and instruct relevant companies to produce vaccines, test kits, masks and other products, as well as for a mechanism to use My Number identification cards as vouchers for vaccinations.

The envisaged amendment to the Hotel Business Law will allow operators of hotels and inns to request their guests to cooperate with infection control measures during a pandemic, and allow them to refuse guests who do not comply with such requests without sufficient reasons.

The specifics of the requests, which are envisaged to be determined by a government ordinance, would include wearing masks, checking temperatures and disinfecting hands. Also, the revised law will likely make it mandatory for business operators to make efforts to train their employees to avoid discrimination against infected people.