Intensive care is expected to play a critical role as the coronavirus spreads in Japan, but finite resources and a shortage of specially trained staff in intensive care units have cast doubt upon the country’s ability to withstand a surge in patients.

The nation's health care system may be world class but fully staffed ICUs in the country are few and far between, said Satoru Hashimoto, the director of intensive care medicine at the hospital of the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine.

“Intensive care requires endurance and an extremely high level of skill that few people have,” Hashimoto said, adding that ICUs are a burden for hospitals because they’re not profitable and tend to have high employee turnover.