Doctors and other medical staff at designated COVID-19 hospitals in the capital say their situation is reaching a critical point.
Interviewed by phone and email earlier this week, they say some colleagues have already quit, fearing their family will be stigmatized by fear of the disease. The names of the hospitals and the sources interviewed for this story are being kept confidential.
They warned that a “collapse of the medical care system” could happen soon if the situation continues. They also said the social prejudice they are experiencing is partly resulting from insufficient safety measures at their hospitals, including PCR testing for medical staff and personal protective equipment.
Some nurses are complaining that nurseries are refusing to accept their children out of fear they might be infected and spread the coronavirus.
“Stress is huge for our teams,” one doctor said. “This hospital is collapsing and screaming to get attention after having done so much in this fight against the virus. The situation is serious as the best infections preventive measures cannot be taken due to lack of virus testing and protective tools.”
A nurse at the same hospital said she was told by a nursery school that it would not look after her child unless she stops working. Likewise, an elementary school attended by the child of another nurse asked the nurse to take a PCR test and submit the results.
In some cases, results don’t seem to matter. Some nurses’ family members have been told by their employers not to come to work, although the nurses themselves tested negative for the virus.
At the hospital, about 10 nurses and other staffers have left since the first COVID-19 case was found on the medical staff. The list included clerical workers.
“Many nurses are not well-equipped with protective equipment, such as surgical gowns,” the doctor said in his interview. “They were just sent to the front line without getting a PCR test. If more nurses keep leaving, our survival will be on the line because our team spirit has weakened.”
A doctor at another Tokyo hospital with a suspected cluster complained about government inaction on speeding up the PCR tests.
“It took a week for a worker to get tested. Some nurses were told by nursery schools not to bring their children for a week or two until they receive test results. More than 20 staff have taken leave or quit the hospital, dealing a fatal blow to our human resources.”
Satoshi Kamayachi, a member of the government’s coronavirus council and executive director of the Japan Medical Association, asked the public for more patience.
“Nobody wants to work in a place where virus protection measures are unreliable. While boosting the steps, citizens’ understanding and support are also needed,” he said.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.