According to a report from the Agence France Press on Tuesday, the man, who lived in a city north of Tokyo, had tried 36 times to be admitted to an emergency room with the help of paramedics. However, many of the 25 hospitals said they didn't have enough beds or doctors available.
The AFP reported the man, whose name wasn't revealed, called an ambulance when he was experiencing breathing problems at home on Jan. 6. Paramedics were informed that 25 hospitals in the area had already turned the man down, citing lack of available beds or doctors. A city official said some hospitals were contacted more than once, which amounted to the 36 emergency rooms refusals within a two-hour time span.
One paramedic told Jiji Press they had never seen "a patient being rejected so many times.”
Paramedics found one hospital in Ibaraki prefecture with an available bed 20 minutes away from the man’s home in Kuki, in Saitama prefecture. However, the man was pronounced dead on arrival by the time the ambulance reached the hospital. According to the newspaper Mainichi, it took three hours from the time of his phone call to when paramedics arrived at the hospital, which accepted the man.
The man’s cause of death wasn't immediately revealed.
This isn't the first time a hospital was understaffed or at capacity in Japan. In 2009, an elderly Japanese man who was struck by a motorcycle waited 90 minutes in an ambulance when 14 area hospitals in Toyko couldn't admit him as a patient. According to a website called Health Insurance Carriers, the hospitals said they lacked the equipment and staff to take the man in. He died from shock caused by loss of blood just as paramedics finally located a hospital to treat him.
The health news website said the incident in 2009 wasn't isolated, citing more than 14,000 patients being turned down three or more times because of overcrowded hospitals in 2007. One woman was rejected 49 times before finally receiving treatment.
Former Japanese Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told the website the increasing amount of elderly patients has led to hospital overcrowding, prompting Tokyo to issue a directive ordering paramedics to phone hospitals regarding availability beforehand.
The city of Kuki, according to the AFP, had asked hospitals to increase the amounts of beds and doctors in area hospitals, especially since the general public in Japan is aging.