TOKYO - A 75-year-old Japanese man died after 25 hospitals refused to admit him to their emergency rooms 36 times over two hours, citing lack of beds or doctors to treat him, an official said on Tuesday.
The man, who lived alone in a city north of Tokyo, called an ambulance after suffering breathing problems at his home in January.
Paramedics rushed to his house but were told in turn by all 25 hospitals in the area that they could not accept the man because they did not have enough doctors or any free beds, a local city official said, adding that some institutions were contacted more than once.
The ambulance eventually made a 20 minute drive to a hospital in neighbouring Ibaraki prefecture, but the man was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The cause of death has not been made public.
One of the paramedics told Jiji Press they had never experienced "a patient being rejected so many times".
The city of Kuki, where the man lived, in Saitama prefecture, has asked hospitals in the region to improve their emergency room capacity, the official said.
Public healthcare in Japan is heavily subsidised and generally of a high global standard.
But commentators warn that with a population that is living longer and with fewer young people entering the workforce, healthcare operators could become increasingly strained over the coming decades.