Japan's hospitals to get language boost for 2020 Games

Japan's hospitals to get language boost for 2020 Games

The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry has decided to boost the nation's readiness to treat foreign patients at medical institutions in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, ministry sources said.

The ministry will support hospitals through such measures as dispatching interpreters and increasing the number of signs in foreign languages so foreigners who visit Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games can receive treatment anxiety-free, the sources explained.

The ministry is planning a project for fiscal 2014 to dispatch interpreters with abundant medical knowledge to hospitals. It intends to create a system to send interpreters to hospitals that actively receive foreign patients nationwide, through such means as cooperation with temporary staff dispatch agencies.

The ministry is also considering the sharing of interpreters among hospitals in the same regions. It plans to cultivate interpreters to this end.

Last fiscal year, the ministry started a system to certify hospitals that provide maps of their facilities in foreign languages and offer vegetarian meals. Since foreign patients can use the certifications as a guide to choose a hospital ready to receive foreign patients, the ministry will encourage hospitals to obtain the certification.

The ministry also plans to ask local governments to provide counsellors who can give foreigners information about such hospitals in local municipalities.

More than 8 million foreigners a year visit Japan for sightseeing and business, and the number is likely to increase approaching 2020. However, due to language barriers, doctors are often unable to determine a patient's condition or get consent for treatment.

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