More and more medical workers in Japan are warning that care systems in the nation are in peril as daily case counts have topped 2,000 for several days running.
Amid the resurgence, Osaka Prefecture has signaled a red light over the local infection situation.
Front-line medical workers are at their limits, with some saying that “beds are occupied all the time” and that there are not enough nurses.
“Even if a bed becomes available after a patient is discharged, the next patient comes in right away. Our hands are full,” a medical worker said.
At Kawakita General Hospital in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, which mainly deals with coronavirus patients with mild symptoms, 30 beds secured for coronavirus patients have been nearly full.
As such patients need to be in separate rooms to prevent infections, rooms for 76 beds, or about 20% of the total at the hospital, are actually used for such patients.
“If the number of coronavirus patients increases further, we have no choice but to refuse admission,” said Yoichi Sugimura, head of the hospital.
The situation is also serious at core hospitals for severely ill coronavirus patients.
Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Medical Hospital in the capital’s Bunkyo Ward has been struggling to accept new patients, with all of its eight beds secured for severely ill coronavirus patients occupied due to their prolonged hospitalizations.
“Usually, coronavirus patients recover in about two weeks, but due to an increase in the number of elderly patients, who need more time to recover, it now takes time for beds to become available for new patients,” said Shinichi Uchida, director of the hospital.
Treating a coronavirus patient in a severe condition requires about four times more medical workers than usually needed in an intensive care unit. Considering human resources at the hospital, it can only offer eight beds, according to the hospital.
“Some such patients die without getting better, even if we do our best,” Uchida said, adding that the stress of not knowing when the situation will improve is huge on medical workers.
“I wonder how long we can continue with the current system,” he said.
The daily count of new coronavirus cases has also remained high in Hokkaido, affecting regular medical services there.
At a hospital in Sapporo where an infection cluster occurred, a number of nurses and other staff infected with the virus left the front line, forcing the hospital to limit operations in its emergency room and suspend outpatient care for about two weeks.
The hospital is offering prescriptions for outpatients without seeing them in person in principle.
The bed occupancy rate for coronavirus patients is also high at the hospital.
“We can’t accept (any more patients), as it’s difficult for us to secure manpower,” a hospital worker said.
It is also becoming increasingly difficult for ambulance staff in Sapporo to find a hospital to accept an emergency patient.
In October and November, when new cases were surging, 724 emergency patients were rejected by three or more hospitals, more than double the level the previous year.
On top of shortages of hospital beds, it is believed that some hospitals have hesitated to accept such patients in order to avoid in-house infection risks.
As many as 63 people were rejected by nine or more hospitals, even though “some were in an every-second-counts situation,” an ambulance staffer said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.