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Tuesday
Apr242012

Fukuoka Birth Clinic


Every time I hear Americans talk about socialized medicine in other countries, I can't help feeling that they are terribly misinformed. It's a shame really. If they knew more about the reality of the healthcare systems in Europe and here in Japan, even the most conservative among them might be able to tone down the hyperbole and come to accept that compared to the U.S. people in those other countries have it so much better. 

Take childbirth. 

For one, it doesn't cost much at all to give birth in Japan. Most if not all of the modest $5000-cost of having a baby (which includes the prenatal care and a five-night stay in the hospital) is covered by subsidies aimed at encouraging Japanese to have babies. In the past, a couple would have been asked to pay the bill upfront upon being discharged and get reimbursed later by the state, but today the state pays the hospital directly. Our first child didn't cost us a cent.

In the U.S. the price of giving birth can vary greatly depending on where and how the baby is delivered--more for c-sections or other complications, of course--and whether or not the mother is insured. Some insurance plans in America do not include childbirth, forcing parents to virtually put their child on consignment. (The liberal that I am, my head is shaking in disbelief.) I know one woman, a Filipino-American, who moved to Japan in the final two months of her pregnancy in order to give birth here, because that was the cheaper option. (Obviously, she is a commie pinko.) Incidentally, even foreigners are able to receive these benefits. 

What's more, visits to the pediatrician and medicine for children is covered by the prefecture up to, I believe, junior high school age, which means there is one less thing parents in Japan need to budget for. Whenever our son is sick or hurt, the cost of the treatment or drugs never comes into consideration: we head straight to the pediatrician or hospital.

And the hospital or clinic we go to is entirely our choice. 

Many Americans worry that by going the socialized medicine route, they will be giving up the freedom to choose their own doctor. But that couldn't be further from the truth. In Japan, we go to wherever we like, see whomever we like.

And we seldom have to wait. My son's pediatric clinic, for example, has an online appointment system. Appointments can be made automatically by email or over the Internet, enabling parents to time their arrival to ten minutes or so prior to having their child seen by the doctor. 

As for the clinics themselves, many of them are modern and clean. Fukuoka Birth Clinic pictured here is a new OB/GYN hospital opened a year and a half ago by a friend of mine. We will be having our second child delivered at this clinic.

There is a "roof balcony" on the fourth floor of the hospital allowing mothers to go outside and get some fresh air.

I haven't been to the clinic in some time, so I don't know how the plants have grown or what kinds of flowers are growing in this massive planter.

There are three types of rooms (all single occupancy) for mothers. Women generally spend five nights in the hospital during which time they are taught how to bathe, feed, and change their baby. These long stays is one reason why the infant mortality rate is so low in Japan, second only to Monaco. There are, incidentally, only 2.21 deaths of infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births in Japan, compared to 6.00 in the United States. America is ranked a dismal fifty-first.

Dining room with Arne Jacobsen ant chairs. Nice touch.

Open space allows for lots of sunshine and good circulation of air.

Nurse station

Private room for mother to relax in while she is experiencing labor pains.

Delivery room.

Waiting area.

Play area for children.

Our doctor and friend himself.

 

Let me tell you, if this is the face of socialism, bring it on!

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Reader Comments (16)

I am from the UK and very appreciative of socialised medicine. I think Stephen Hawking made his simple and to the point case for it recently: 'I would not be alive without the NHS'.

I have had to battle a doctor in Japan over birth rights, but I have been fortunate in that I found very good midwives. Both my boys were born in water with soft lights and music - no bright lights, invasive care, stirrups, face masks, and nurses to whisk the baby away after birth. This was my choice in socialised medicine. Perfect. Happy bubs, happy mum, and happy bank account.

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLottie

Lottie,

Many thanks for the comment.

I think what many Americans fail to realize is how much choice there is in socialized medicine over here. Women are free to choose the doctor or clinic they want. The same cannot be said of Americans who belong to for-profit "integrated managed care consortiums", like Kaiser Permanente.

Our first baby was born under subdued lighting, without stirrups, by a midwife. Private room for mommy. All free of charge.

May 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

Hi,
the clinic seems to be very nice.
I'm wondering if the staff speak English there. I'm pregnant now and it's a problem to find a good hospital where doctors and nurses speak English. Actually, I'm visiting Kyushu Daigaku hospital now to check during my pregnancy and everything is fine there. But today I was told that they didn't allow the father to the delivery moment. It was the surprising news. So, I'm thinking that I might change hospital for the delivery time.

July 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvgeniya

Dr. Koga, the owner/chief OB/GYN at Fukuoka Birth Clinic lived in Australia for three years so he should be able to at least understand English. (We always speak Japanese, I'm afraid.)

Fathers are allowed in the delivery room if they so desire.

July 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

Around 99.% of Americans know virtually nothing about the medical systems in other countries. End of story!

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlarrcoop

Educate them!

November 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

Loved this well-written, beautifully photographed and informative article. I always feel disbelief when I hear about healthcare costs in the USA and am taken aback even further when I speak to Americans who veto the idea of subsidised medical treatment. Coming from the UK (free medical care) and now living in Korea (cheap medical care), I really can't see why private, expensive healthcare should be considered the only option.

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoren

You forgot to mention that Japanese nurses don't use any gloves when drawing blood. Also, nurses cough without closing their mouths. Great way to get a newborn ill!!

If you can't secure a decent job with benefits in the US don't knock it.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkawaii

Our nurses washed their hands and wore gloves.

As far as the not wearing masks bit, no one on this germ-filled planet of ours wears masks like the Japanese. I am on the train right now as I write this and the man to my left and the man in front of me (2 of the 3 sitting in my area) are wearing surgical masks. Japanese nurses, too, wear masks, especially when they have colds or a bug is going around.

And regarding your rude insinuation that people without good healthcare in the US are somehow undeserving of it, this is pure nonsense. Healthcare should NOT be a privilege for the few, but a right for all.

Japan, with its single-payer universal healthcare, while not perfect, does a remarkable job in providing quality, affordable healthcare. Infant mortality here is one of the lowest--Japan is third after Singapore and Iceland; the US comes in at a dismal 34th with twice as many deaths--and the Japanese have the longest life expectancies (America is 40th). They achieve this spending at less than half what Americans pay. The U.S. spends a whopping 17.6% of GDP on healthcare--the highest--while Japan spends only 8.3-9.5%.

Thank you for your comment, however misinformed it was.

January 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

My daughter was born in Japan in 1995 and I believe we were reimbursed soon after delivery. Am glad to hear that changed because it made no sense for the parents to have to pay out of pocket only to get reimbursed. In the States mothers are in and out of the hospital within hours and my wife got to stay 5 days or so in a clinic that looked a lot like the one in the photos.

In 2005 I was diagnosed (in Japan) with a malignant yet indolent cancer and no treatment was needed. I choose to go back to America ... naively thinking health coverage would not be a problem. Both my wife and I have gone long periods without coverage here in the States and may return to Japan simply because the burden is too heavy here: we currently do have coverage but with a $3000 deductible not to mention the out of pocket expenses that are quite high. We can't afford to get sick even with coverage ...

That being said, there has been a healthy benefit to living here in the US: the vitamin and supplement market along with the natural foods industry and health and fitness industry here beats its Japanese counterpart and because of that I am healthier than before. In the European Union, citizens rights to access vitamins and supplements are being withdrawn, which is just what Big Pharma wants.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKayu

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