We strongly criticize swift passage of bill to revise Infectious Diseases Control Law in lower house

November 8, 2022
Tsuyoshi Masuda
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions

A bill to revise the Infectious Diseases Control Law was passed in the House of Representatives on November 8.

The bill includes some positive amendments, such as the need to “examine medical care for post-illness symptoms” and “consider how information related to the efficacy and safety of immunizations should be made public.” But it fails to solve fundamental issues of strained medical care and public health services that have no extra capacity even in normal times.

To begin with, the central pillar of the bill’s crisis management response is to place a responsibility to secure beds for infectious disease patients on prefectural governments and to strengthen control over medical institutions by law. Specifically, medical facilities are required to conclude “agreements” with prefectures regarding the securing of beds and opening of fever outpatient clinics. Public hospitals, hospitals with specific functions, and regional medical support hospitals are required to provide infectious disease care and are subject to penalties, such as revocation of designation, if they do not follow recommendations and orders. Private medical institutions must discuss with prefectural governments to conclude an “agreement”, and the status of implementation of the agreement will be made public.

However, parliamentary deliberations have revealed that there is no basis for the legislation. When asked whether there were any medical institutions that refused to secure beds without justifiable reasons during the pandemic, a government official answered, “Medical institutions were cooperating as much as possible.” It must be said that verification and summation of the root causes that led to the collapse of the healthcare system are insufficient. Furthermore, the bill goes against the principle that measures to counter infectious diseases should be publicly funded as it requires insurers to bear the costs of ensuring medical care in early stages of an epidemic.

What is needed to secure hospital beds in the event of a pandemic is to thoroughly review measures taken against the covid-19 infection based on experts’ opinions, to overhaul financial support and medical care, welfare, and public health systems, drastically increase the number of staff, and rebuild a system that can respond to emergencies.

The Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions demands that the bill to revise the Infectious Diseases Control Law be thoroughly discussed and then scrapped in the House of Councilors.