The government and medical institutions are calling on people to check which hospitals and clinics will be open during the upcoming longer "Golden Week" holiday as some outpatient departments will be closed.
People with chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes are particularly asked to make sure they are prescribed sufficient amounts of medicine ahead of the holiday, which has been extended to 10 days to celebrate the imperial succession.
During a normal Golden Week holiday, local clinics take turns to treat patients. According to a survey by the Japan Medical Association mostly comprising self-employed doctors, 60 percent of responding local medical associations said they are planning to do the same during the 10-day holiday.
As for general hospitals, 24-hour emergency care will be provided as usual, but many of them expected to provide outpatient services for just two to three days during the holiday period from April 27 to May 6.
A survey conducted by a medical consulting firm on 123 general hospitals across the country showed 80 percent plan to provide outpatient services and perform operations on certain days during the holiday, but few will be open every day for outpatients.
Many general hospitals will treat outpatients on April 30 and May 2, the survey showed. Some, however, have chosen to halt all services except emergency care to allow doctors some time off.
At Kanazawa University Hospital in Ishikawa Prefecture, outpatient services will be closed for the entire holiday. However, 24-hour emergency care, radiation therapy and dialysis will be available as usual.
"There is a chronic shortage of doctors at local hospitals, so many are unable to take a day off to make up for having worked on a holiday," said hospital chief of staff Toshifumi Gabata.
If the university hospital were to maintain its regular services treating an average 1,500 outpatients per weekday, about 1,800 personnel including doctors, nurses and administrative staff would have to come to work, according to the hospital.
The hospital has allocated two days to perform operations during the holiday as the total suspension of surgeries can be life-threatening for some patients.
"People can visit ER and if it's necessary, we will summon physicians" who are on leave, Gabata said in addressing worries of some patients and their families.