• Kyodo


A facility dedicated to coronavirus patients with serious symptoms opened Tuesday in Osaka, with the Self-Defense Forces as well as other regions of Japan sending nurses to make up for a staff shortage amid a recent spike in infections there.

The prefabricated, temporary facility with 30 beds and respirators to treat seriously ill patients in the city’s Sumiyoshi Ward will initially receive about five COVID-19 patients. The building was completed at the end of November.

In the morning, three SDF nurses in camouflage uniform — one from the National Defense Medical College with experience in intensive care and two associate nurses — arrived at the new medical center.

The facility was built within the premises of the prefectural government-sponsored Osaka General Medical Center to reduce burdens on other medical institutions.

Osaka Prefecture has recently seen a surge in coronavirus cases and reported 185 new infections and a record 14 deaths Monday, bringing the death toll in December to 101, exceeding the 78 recorded last month.

The prefecture faces an imminent risk to its capacity to treat severe COVID-19 patients with 156, or 75.7%, of the 206 beds reserved for such people occupied as of Monday.

About 130 nurses are required at the new medical center when at full capacity and the Osaka Prefectural Government has so far secured around 120 nurses with the help of the SDF as well as other local governments and entities.

“We thank all those who offered support (for the new medical center). As medical resources are limited, it is of utmost importance to curb the overall number of infected people,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters.

He also expressed confidence that the facility will be able to treat 30 patients at full capacity as offers of help are still being received.

The facility will not accept patients with the most severe symptoms as it is not equipped with artificial heart-lung devices known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO.

At the request of Yoshimura, the Defense Ministry also dispatched one SDF nurse and three associate nurses Tuesday to the Osaka Prefectural Nakakawachi Emergency and Critical Care Center in Higashiosaka, which had halted accepting new serious patients due to a shortage of medical workers.

Outside Osaka, a total of 10 SDF nurses were also sent last week to two medical facilities in Asahikawa, another virus hotspot, in Hokkaido.

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