JAPAN - The number of hospitals nationwide with obstetrics or pediatrics departments has fallen to a record low since 1990, according to a survey conducted by the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry.
As of October 2011, there were 1,395 hospitals with obstetrics departments, down 37 from the previous year.
Hospitals with pediatrics departments fell by 63 to 2,745 from the previous year.
"The two departments suffer from a chronic shortage of doctors, but have heavy workloads. Outpatients often need attention at night and on holidays, and there is a high risk of being sued [for malpractice]," the ministry said.
The number of hospitals nationwide totaled 8,605, down 65 from the previous year.
The hospitals that closed were mainly in coastal municipalities affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
According to the survey, the number of hospitals in Fukushima Prefecture decreased by 10 to 130, while Miyagi Prefecture hospitals dropped by five to 141.
In the Soso district, including the severely damaged town of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, the number of doctors and nurses fell by half.
The prefecture with the most doctors per 100,000 people was Kochi Prefecture at 221.2. The lowest was in Saitama Prefecture at 108.8.