The number of ambulance patients rejected by hospitals grew more than fivefold in April on infection fears driven by the coronavirus pandemic, a survey shows.
The survey results released Saturday by Kyodo News underscore how the virus is affecting emergency medical care by causing in-hospital infections of COVID-19. The respiratory illness is making it harder for general patients with such symptoms to get proper treatment.
From April 1 to 27, the number of emergency cases in which medical institutions were asked four or more times to accept patients with symptoms typical of COVID-19, such as fever and breathing difficulty, jumped to 2,705, compared with 483 in April 2019, the survey said.
The ambulance data were provided by the Tokyo Fire Department and fire departments of 31 other prefectural capitals.
A similar survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry that covered patients with all kinds of symptoms showed that the figure in late April almost doubled from a year ago.
According to the Kyodo News survey, 19 out of the 32 fire departments saw an increase in such cases, with Tokyo’s listed at 1,733, up more than eightfold from 207 before.
Asked in a multiple-choice question about why patients were rejected, 23 fire departments said patients were suspected of having COVID-19 and six said there weren’t enough hospital beds available due to the coronavirus.
Nine said multiple medical facilities have stopped accepting urgent-care patients and 24 urged the government to strengthen safety measures to prevent rescuers from being infected with the virus.
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