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Over 40% of medical institutions in Japan lowered their year-end bonuses for nurses and other staff members due to the effects of the pandemic, a survey by the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions has shown.

That figure compares to over 30% for summer bonuses, according to the organization made up of some 170,000 people working at hospitals and clinics throughout the country.

“The situation is clearly deteriorating,” said Susumu Morita, general secretary of the federation.

The bonus cuts are mainly due to patients avoiding regular visits to the doctor or refusing to be hospitalized out of fear of catching the coronavirus, according to the federation.

Earlier this month, it asked labor unions at medical institutions throughout the country to take part in the survey. It received answers from 298 unions by Wednesday.

According to the results, the medical institutions’ year-end bonuses overall have been reduced by an average amount equivalent to about 0.15 month of salary from a year before, or about ¥43,315.

Of the 289 unions whose data could be compared with payments in 2019, 128 unions, or 44.3% of the total, had their year-end bonuses lowered as a proportion of monthly wages, with some having pay cut by over ¥300,000 per person.

Meanwhile, 125 unions, or 43.3%, had their bonuses stay flat and 36 unions, or 12.5%, saw their bonuses rise.

Speaking at a news conference held in Tokyo, Morita said, “Medical workers and nursing care staff who have been working with a feeling of responsibility and a sense of mission are reaching their limits.”

He urged the government to swiftly introduce financial support for medical institutions.

Amid the recent surge in coronavirus infections, medical institutions in virus hot spots are increasingly strained.

According to the health ministry, the occupancy rate for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients had exceeded 25% in Hokkaido, Tokyo and seven other prefectures as of Nov. 18.

If the current situation continues, local health care systems will be severely impacted and it will become impossible to save lives that could have otherwise been saved, a health ministry panel of experts warned at a meeting Tuesday night.

A member of the panel said, “We can’t say whether we will be able to maintain the current medical treatment systems after two weeks.” There is a “huge gap” in the crisis perception between the government and medical workers on the ground, the member added.

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