A 75-year-old Japanese man has died after the ambulance he was travelling in was rejected 36 times by several hospitals over a period of two hours.

Paramedics rushed to the man’s house in a city north of Tokyo after he complained of breathing problems. The ambulance went the rounds of hospitals in the area but 25 of them said they could not accept the man because they did not have enough doctors or any free beds, a local city official said.

The ambulance eventually brought the patient to a hospital 20 minutes away in neighboring Ibaraki prefecture but the man was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The cause of death has not been made public, AFP reports.

One of the paramedics told Jiji Press they had never experienced “a patient being rejected so many times”.

Public healthcare in Japan is heavily subsidized and generally of a high global standard, according to AFP.

Japan’s ageing population, drawn out by longer life expectancy, could put a strain on the country’s healthcare over the coming decades.