It's always good to be prepared for an emergency, and here are a few tips we'd like to pass on from our experiences. The place most people end up going for a medical need at night is the Medical Center. However, you may want to be aware of a few factors that could affect your choice of hospitals. At the Medical Center, the night staff often are intern doctors, though I don't know what the back up staff is (for example who is on call, etc). For a small child, the difficult aspect is that should the situation require hospitalization, parents are not permitted to stay with the children at night. Since hospitals in Japan generally prefer to observe a sick child for a few days, that can translate to a highly traumatic situation, especially for children who cannot understand what the nurses and doctors are saying, nor can they be understood if they can talk yet. Even if you think your child might be OK without you, if they are 3 or under, remember that other babies will be screaming at the top of their lungs, possibly in the same room, and there are not enough nurses to be able to hold all the crying babies.
The alternatives I know of are Tsukuba Gakuen Hospital in Yatabe (36-1355), which is an older facility that looks kind of run down and Kinen Hospital (64-1212), a newer private hospital with an excellent reputation. Kinen also has a good nursing staff, but as a result can be crowded. Both hospitals will allow parents to sleep with the child if necessary. At night, there is no guarantee that a pediatrician will be available and one should always call before going. If you want a pediatrician (shonika), you might try calling "119" (in Japanese) and ask which hospital is open for emergencies and has a pediatrician on duty. If the reason you have to go to the hospital at night is a child with an asthma attack, after dealing with the emergency at a hospital that allows you to be with your child, you must still find a good doctor. Dr. Noguchi is a pediatrician specialized in allergies at Tsukuba University Hospital and speaks English OK. Office hours are on Friday, and an appointment is necessary.
Financial Assistance for Medical Costs
Another point should you or a family member need hospitalization is the insurance coverage. If you are on the Japanese national health plan (kokumin kenko hoken), you will have to pay 30% of the covered costs, but if that amount exceeds 60000 yen during one calendar month, you will receive a form 2 to 3 months later from the city that you can fill out and return for a full refund of everything you paid over that amount. This brings me to one more point, also applied for at the Hoken (health) Center. If you sign up, for children up until 3, the government pays a small amount, about 5000 yen per child per month. This applies to any children in this age group, regardless of where they were born, as long as they are legally residing in Japan. The idea is to encourage people to have more children, and it does help with all those medical costs. In addition, chronic conditions, such as asthma, may qualify for 100% coverage for children. This involves an examination by a doctor for which you pay and filling out Japanese forms which can be found at the Hoken Center next to the Matsushiro Shopping Center. The application is then reviewed to determine if it is accepted. If approved, it must be renewed by the deadline given to continue coverage in following years. It takes a while to process, but it is worth it.
Although it remains a mystery as to why, it is not uncommon to have to make several dental visits for simple things such as filling a cavity or having your teeth cleaned. Dr. Inoue in the Umezono area speaks English, and is more flexible in this regard. If you hope for a teeth cleaning and checkup all in one visit, inform the receptionist when you make an appointment. "Ikkai dake de kuriningu (cleaning) to chekku (check) wo shitte itadakitai no desu." If there are no complications, (extra dirty or lots of cavities), it will be done in a single visit. Footnote: water in Japan is not fluoridated, and so you may want to be careful to check for this ingredient in toothpaste or get fluoridated vitamins from your home country
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