Nursing home deaths reveal problems in healthcare system

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The recent deaths of seven nursing home residents at a facility in Fukuyama, Hiroshima, in Japan point to a shortage of personnel providing medical services at facilities for the aged and shortcomings in the government's monitoring of homes.

Residents died at the end of last year due to a norovirus, one of a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis or stomach flu.

While the Health, Labor and Welfare has been monitoring 3,000 medical institutions for gastroenteritis, nursing homes are not included in the ministry's monitoring system, a local report said.

The news report also said while cases of food poisoning must be reported to authorities, infectious diseases such as influenza and rubella do not have to be reported because they are considered low risk. If someone catches these diseases from a food poisoning patient the case does not have to be reported.

Also, nursing homes have no full-time doctors in Japan. There a nursing home is considered a home for the elderly, not a medical institution. As such, there is no standard on the number of doctors required at such homes.