At least 10 emergency care institutions last week began suspending or restricting the patients they accept because of the new coronavirus.

The facilities, which are in Tokyo and four other prefectures, are so-called tertiary emergency care medical institutions, which operate around the clock and provide sophisticated treatment. They are often referred to as “the last resort” for patients.

Medical institutions in nine prefectures had not suspended or restricted tertiary emergency services yet, but their ability to accept more patients is either near the limit or their employees are exhausted because of the coronavirus pandemic, a Jiji Press survey conducted with the 47 prefectural governments found Saturday.

“If the coronavirus patients keep increasing, necessary treatment and operations for critical-care patients and urgent cancer cases will become impossible,” said Joji Kotani, head of the emergency and critical-care center at Kobe University Hospital. “A medical system collapse would become a reality.”

“We’re short of hospital spaces and medical supplies, such as masks and gowns, in addition to medical staff,” he said. “We’re walking on thin ice.”

His hospital is not among the 10 tertiary facilities restricting admittance.

According to the survey, Osaka City General Hospital and Osaka City University Hospital were suspending acceptance of emergency patients except for those previously admitted. Osaka General Medical Center is restricting services for patients with certain grave symptoms.

In neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital and the Hyogo Prefectural Kakogawa Medical Center were restricting emergency care services for general patients to put priority on coronavirus patients with severe symptoms.

In Tokyo, Tokyo Medical and Dental University Medical Hospital was limiting the acceptance of emergency patients to focus on coronavirus patients. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government said another facility has begun reducing patient intake but did not disclose its name.

Tokyo Metropolitan Bokutoh Hospital began suspending acceptance at its emergency care center on Tuesday due to internal COVID-19 infections.

The Aichi Prefectural Government said more than one emergency care center in the prefecture was restricting the intake of emergency patients due to hospital infections or other reasons. But it also said institutions were working together to provide almost the same level of service as usual.

The Niigata Prefectural Government said it is aware that some hospitals have restricted emergency services.

Hokkaido’s government said the emergency care situation was tough there as well, while Miyagi said some “confusion” had occurred at medical institutions in the prefecture.

The Kochi Prefectural Government said medical institutions on Shikoku are struggling to deal with an increase in suspected coronavirus cases.

In the meantime, 24 prefectural governments said they saw no or little change.

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