Hospitals in disaster zone hobbled by staff shortages

Kyodo

Seventeen of the 45 major hospitals in coastal areas pummeled by the triple calamity last March are still unable to offer full medical services because of staffing shortages, a survey indicated Sunday.

Of the 17 hospitals in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, four in Fukushima remain closed and are unlikely to reopen anytime soon, the Kyodo New survey said. Some of the hospitals have run into financial difficulties because they have lost some of their medical staff and patients.

Twelve hospitals reported declines in doctors and seven said they had lost some nurses.

Fourteen said they now had fewer beds for inpatients and nine said they had scaled down operations by treating a narrower range of illnesses, suspending admissions or halting nighttime emergency services.

The plight of such institutions is believed to have worsened since the March megaquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis because many of the hospitals surveyed were suffering from staffing shortages to begin with.

The survey, conducted in early and mid-February, covered 51 hospitals, drawing responses from 45.