Photo/IllutrationA medical interpreter, left, serves as a mediator between a patient and a doctor at a hospital in Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

More than 80 percent of medical institutions nationwide do not charge foreign tourists for interpretation services and other extra costs incurred during medical treatments, according to a health ministry research paper.

With the recent surge in the number of foreign visitors to Japan, such services are urgently needed but come with a high price tag.

The ministry’s preliminary calculations suggest that it costs from 18 million yen ($164,200) to 26 million yen annually to deal with non-Japanese patients, including spending for coordinators, medical interpreters and nurses who speak a foreign language, for a midsize hospital that can accept about 50 foreign patients monthly. The amounts work out to about 30,000 yen to 50,000 yen per patient.

The estimated amounts do not include labor costs for doctors and nurses who work shifts that can be prolonged due to communication through interpretation services.

A project team of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is expected to soon compile a proposal for the government so that medical institutions can bill foreign patients for services helping them overcome language barriers.

Under the current rule, medical institutions are allowed to determine consultation fees for foreigners on their own.

The health ministry on April 20 showed the LDP’s project team the results of the survey conducted in 2016.

The survey results indicate that 83 percent of the 1,456 medical institutions that responded only charged for medical treatments they provided, but did not charge for additional services such as for interpretations.

In the survey, questions were asked of 3,749 emergency-designated hospitals as well as 282 medical institutions that were designated by the Japan Tourism Agency in fiscal 2015 as hospitals that are particularly suited for non-Japanese tourists.