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Ambulances called 777,427 times in Tokyo last year

25 Comments

The Tokyo Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Monday that the number of cases in which ambulances were called in 2016 was 777,427. That is the highest number since 1936 when the agency started its ambulance service, and the seventh year in a row that the number of calls has increased.

The agency attributed the increase to the greater number of elderly people in Japan; 246,263 people, roughly one third of those who called for an ambulance last year, were aged 75 and older, compared to 150,000 in 2007.

Another factor is that 54.9% of last year’s calls were not emergencies but light injuries that did not require hospitalization. This includes those who “did not know which hospital to go to” or “didn’t want to pay for a taxi," the agency said.

The agency has called on the public to make proper use of the ambulance service so that those who really need it will be able to receive the necessary first aid. They advise people to first call #7119, a service where they can consult with a staff member who will evaluate their symptoms and decide whether or not the caller really needs an ambulance.

© Japan Today

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25 Comments
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They advise people to first call #7119, a service where they can consult with a staff member who will evaluate their symptoms and decide whether or not the caller really needs an ambulance.

I didnt know about this number, anyway people usually decide themselves if its an emergency or not instead of calling a soudan number so I dont see much use for this.

Time for the ambulance service to make people pay money in case of time wasters.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@papigiukio - agreed, but who makes the call?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Like it or not but many people in Japan misuse the system.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wow. #7119 is going on my refrigerator. Our son fell and split open his chin on the hardwood floor. Not life threatening, but we called and called and called and couldn't find a hospital that would take us on the weekend. We gave up and called an ambulance and asked if it was OK for such and injury and they said sure AND they ended up taking him to one of the hospitals that declined us when we first inquired. I think the having to calling around to hospitals is a big part of the problem.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Dan Lweis, I think they could easily adopt a common sense approach. Obvious cranks and people who say they "don't want to pay for a taxi" are prime candidates for a small instant fine via their phone bill (as is common in most other developed countries). More borderline calls should obviously be given the benefit of the doubt.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Ambulance service here is good and cheap, but too many pensioners see them as a free Taxi service. Not a new problem.

As for Hospital admissions, with most Hospitals being specalised clinics they don't have have ER capabilities and will only accept cases brought by Ambulances.

Red Cross Hospitals are great and have good ER wards open for walk-ins.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ambulances here are driven at the same speed of regular traffic. They seldom look like they have a sense of urgency. I hope I will never need an ambulance here in Japan. Scary!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I guess the best way to describe the gripes being posted are not being said other than a means to get to a hospital. Unlike other countries where medical care is actually practiced in Japan the best you can get is an ice pack, as it is nothing more than a taxi with a red light and cheaper. If taxis could have red lights to transport people to the hospital they too would be used as such. The best solution is too allow ambulance personnel to be able to treat minor and life threating situations while in touch with a medical doctor. I can get me own ice pack.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@bjohnson

I've had four ambulance-trips in Japan. I'm still here. : )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Had a few trips myself, all went smooth.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ambulances here are driven at the same speed of regular traffic. They seldom look like they have a sense of urgency. I hope I will never need an ambulance here in Japan. Scary!

It's the law, ambulances have the right of way only but are not allowed to speed. Back in the day I drove an ambulance here, and folks would be surprised at just how many drivers fail to give the right of way to an ambulance coming up behind them flashing our light lights and siren blaring.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A friend of mine (in Canada, in the late 80s) needed an ambulance after an allergic reaction to nuts. The ambulance fee was 75 CAD. Her parents were upset with the ambulance bill, but they know it saved her life. Here, charging a similar fee would make people think twice before having to call an ambulance.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Hospitals having the right to turn people away on weekends/after hours means that the only way to get seen then is to call an ambulance (or to be me and threaten the reception staff until they see my wife -sadly this works).

Create genuine ERs where people can go to under their own steam and it will take the pressure off the ambulances.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They need to have a minimum charge for calling an ambulance (say ¥15,000 yen or more).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

How about a 15,000 yen fee, minus whatever you pay at the hospital? If it's serious, it's free. If it's a taxi ride, you pay.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The problem with misuse of ambulance services is not only about fees or convenience as much as the attitude and aptitude of those who misuse and the accessibility of the service which the people "assume" and "take advantage of" as if it was for their personal right to do so and not a privilege. The problem exists all over the world. It may not be that much different. That is because ambulances are for emergencies and they must be accessible.

It is not the numbers of calls for ambulance service as much as the "need" and "proper use" of that service. Very often, because of possible lawsuits and public outcry if such services are not provided, too many calls are allowed to dispatch an ambulance.

Many counties in the USA, take a few minutes to ask questions while the ambulances are on route to further clarify the actual urgency and the need. The problem of misuse can often be avoided or can be reduced if the dispatcher continued to talk with the person requesting the ambulance service.

I am not aware that Japan uses such a system and procedure, but such improvement in communication can often reduce 1) the need and 2) the redundancy in providing emergency service. It is important NOT to "cut" communication with the requesting party just because the ambulance was dispatched. Often redirecting a call to a nurse or a doctor can eliminate and reduce the need for actual emergency "transport" which the ambulance is.

It may increase operator/dispatcher cost, but that can help to make the actual process much more efficient and help to save the lives of those who really need the service.

In some countries such as in the USA and Thailand, the police often "escort" private vehicles to hospitals when immediate on site medical treatments which paramedics provide in an ambulance are not needed. That, requires coordination.

Interestingly in the USA and in Japan, the Fire Truck as well as the ambulances are often dispatched together. That is another area of concern.

So it is not just the total number as much as the percentage of misuse that may need to be addressed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

same thing every year, last year i recall people were calling 119 a lot cos vendng machines or parking lots were not working correctly. How about a short add at the START of the weather or news advertising 7119, sure the cost of the add would balance out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's the same in the States also, I worked for one for 21 years. I know of the problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many elderly cannot afford an ambulance fee. Plus it is already paid for with taxes.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

folks would be surprised at just how many drivers fail to give the right of way to an ambulance coming up behind them flashing our light lights and siren blaring.

I wouldn't though. Because I used to see it often. We can only count our blessings that the road discipline regarding ambulances is slightly better than in Bangkok.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Like Yubaru mentioned the drivers here aren't always courteous of the ambulance. Also numerous times I've noticed ambulances stuck at railway crossings while the trains go by ( inevitable to some extent ). @ Hooktrunk2 ... excellent comment and absolutely realistic

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This includes those who “did not know which hospital to go to”

Of course, since hospitals have the right to turn you away, they DO IT ! and we end not knowing where to go !

We paid taxes so we can get the proper service when we need it, Japan stop whining, provide the necessary services based on what your citizen need and not on what you want "your citizen to need"... we got it, ultimately you would like us to refrain calling any ambulances at all and die quietly because it is cheap, I will say.. first fix the shameful "Hospitals having the right to turn people away" during week-end/after hours unless you have the ambulance calling them and you will see the problem slowly resolving by itself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Citizen3012.

In my area we have lots of Hospitals but only a few with an ER, most are specialised for certain sicknesses and thus can't handle most ER cases.

The Ambulances work as a form of Triage.

Most people here foreign and local never inform themselves as to where the local ER is, that should be part of your Emergency kit and Disaster preparation, IMHO.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Many elderly cannot afford an ambulance fee. Plus it is already paid for with taxes.

Are there really that many that can't pay even ¥15,000 ? I wonder what the real expense of running the ambulance out is? (way too expensive in the US it is). Most of the elderly I know are doing far better than the ave. Japanese. Anyway I like the idea of deducting the money from medical treatments.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The issue is not just overuse, it also about NOISE POLLUTION!

If the government can't stop the overuse, could they at least consider how stressful it is for tired working people at home who have to hear sirens 20 times a day?

People need to rest at home. The ambulance and fire department are making more people sick and stressed with the blaring sirens. If they can't charge for services, could they at least make an effort to cut the use of sirens. It is REALLY stressful for people trying to sleep at home!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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