At least a third of the 86 hospitals designated by the government for advanced treatment are being forced to partially suspend elective surgeries, emergency care and other services to make room for coronavirus patients, a survey shows.

The government expected such hospitals to play a key role in dealing with severe COVID-19 patients, but they are being forced to accept people with mild symptoms because smaller hospitals are being overwhelmed.

In the survey by Kyodo News between late April and mid-May, 53 hospitals responded and 44 said they were accepting coronavirus patients.

Of the group of 44, 29 said they had to free up personnel, beds and equipment needed for advanced treatment to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

Thirty-five hospitals said they had to cancel or postpone some surgeries, with one saying all surgeries had been put off and 13 saying they had restricted outpatient visits.

Norio Sugaya, a visiting professor at Keio University who specializes in infectious diseases, says town, city and prefectural governments must now prepare their medical systems for the second wave of the virus.

“Municipalities should play the central role in keeping track of available hospital beds in their areas and deciding which patient goes to which hospital,” he said.

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