Japan’s cabinet on Friday approved a bill to penalize hospitals that fail to honor agreements with local governments to prepare beds for patients with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases and provide outpatient care.
The bill also calls for imposing penalties on people entering Japan suspected of being infected who do not report their health status while in isolation. In addition, the state will be authorized to request or order commercial operators to produce or import vaccines and medical supplies such as face masks and needles.
The bill is part of efforts to enable central and local governments to respond more quickly to major infectious disease outbreaks after criticism that the country was too slow to ensure its medical system can effectively tackle the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.
Japan has also been criticized for lagging behind other advanced countries in administering COVID-19 vaccines.
The government aims to revise the Infectious Diseases Act and other related laws during the current Diet session and begin implementing the new rules in fiscal year 2024.
“We will prepare for the emergence and spread of infectious diseases that could have a serious impact on people’s lives and health,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference.
Under the proposed law, prefectural governments will sign agreements with key local medical institutions obliging them to prepare beds for patients when the infection spreads.
If medical facilities fail to comply with prior agreements, local governments can issue notices and orders to compel them to comply and release the names of the facilities if they still fail to comply with the agreements.
Local authorities can also revoke the certification of medical institutions as key institutions that provide advanced treatments and support local clinics, which would lead to a reduction in remuneration for their medical services.
Local clinics will also be asked to decide what role they want to play in outbreak response, such as providing outpatient services to people with fever, responding to recovering patients at home and dispatching doctors.
But since agreements with local governments must be made on a voluntary basis, the effectiveness of the system will depend on how many medical institutions actually participate.
The legal overhaul will also allow dentists and clinical lab technicians to administer vaccines and dentists to take samples from people to perform PCR tests.