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Emergency Medical Care in Japan

Tony Galiani

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Tony Galiani

Currently in Greece where we have just experienced emergency care in the Greek health system.  It was an interesting, somewhat stressful experience, especially for someone who has worked so much with the American health care system.  And while we have travel insurance and I have a basic plan if something goes wrong, this works in an area where a great many people speak English.


I have seen Paolo of Tokyo's videos about his medical emergency and know that Japanese medical care is high quality but I don't know how to access assistance should it be needed.  So now I figured I should research the process - just in case - as we make plans for future trips.


Step one is to actually read 45 page information attachment to our insurance policy but I also thought I would start making inquiries to see what other information I can learn.  So, if anyone has guidance on this topic, I would appreciate any information.




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Well it's Japan, so it will be very hit-and-miss with finding medical staff who speak English, OTOH people will usually do their best to help.


From my (fortunately) limited experience, most large-ish hospitals have some sort of walk-in emergency department, but depending on the area, out-of-hours and at weekends etc. there will only a couple of hospitals available on a rotation basis. I know how to find that information for my local area in Japanese (listed on the respective local authority websites), no idea how to find that for a given area in English. If you call an ambulance, the ambulance staff will call around local hospitals to find somewhere which can take you (AFAIK some areas have a centralised dispatch system; one also hears of unlucky cases where the patient has an extended ambulance ride before somewhere can be found).


Unless you end up at somewhere used to dealing with overseas patients and insurance, you will probably need to settle the bill on completion of treatment, and being Japan may need to pay in cash (though the larger the institution, the more likely they are to accept credit cards).



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sorry to hear of your having to use the health care system in Greece. I have a friend who had a parent visiting them when they were working in Japan for a few years require some hospitalization. From what I remember it went well and was not horridly expensive event and don’t even remember them having travel insurance. I can see if he would talk to you about their experience.


hope you guys are doing well now.





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2 hours ago, cteno4 said:

From what I remember it went well and was not horridly expensive event


Oh yes, forgot to mention - my mother needed emergency treatment at a weekend while here visiting once, took her along to the nearest hospital on rotation that day, which was fortunately within walking distance, and the end cost was about 30,000 yen for consultation and quality time in an expensive-looking scan-inside-the-body tube and diagnosis (nothing dramatic, fortunately), and they even provided a CD with the data.


One other thing to bear in mind - if they give you a prescription, usually there won't be an in-house pharmacy (due to regulations etc. etc., don't ask me for details) but there will always be at least one pharmacy in the immediate vicinity.

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Tony Galiani

@railsquid and @cteno4 - Thanks for your input.  Good to know.  Oddly enough, since I do so much advance planning for work, I do not do so much for travel.  Going forward, I will be better prepared with info for what to do if necessary.


The care we received in Greece was okay though somewhat odd by US standards - all they asked was my wife's name and age - no vital signs, no medical history or anything like that.  And things were somewhat chaotic - fortunately, the doctors, nurses and ambulance driver spoke English.


And I have to note how kind and helpful random strangers were.  When my wife fell she screamed in pain for the first few moments.  I was trying to comfort her and figure out what to do to help her when a passing woman stopped by to reassure her and ran to get an ice bag to put on her arm.  A passing gentleman stopped to offer assistance and then ran to get her a bottle of water and insisted she stay on the ground and use his backpack as a head rest.  Meanwhile, a municipal truck happened to pass by and the driver stopped when he saw us.  He then used his radio to call an ambulance.  Both passersby insisted on staying with us until the ambulance arrived and they knew we were getting assistance.  It was heartening to receive such kindness and aid.



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wow that’s great to hear folks were so helpful! I’ve been in at a few emergency situations here in the states were most all folks just stood and watched and I had to yell at people to do things like get a blanket and call 911. At one incident no one came forward to help other than me and after ambulance and emt were there one lady came up to me and complimented me saying she had been an er nurse. I was gobsmacked to the extreme to say the least. I asked her why she didn’t come forward and she said I looked like I knew what I was doing! Me with advanced first aid and a couple of emt classes like 15 years before. I was too stunned to let her have it… even the police officer on the scene grabbed me to drive the guys girlfriend to the hospital a couple of miles away (her boyfriend had too much chewing tobacco and had a nicotine seizure) as of course by then everyone disappeared fast.


hope your wife’s arm is ok here and it’s an easy trip home.



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