• Kyodo

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More than half of the nurses working at coronavirus hospital wards have thought about quitting their jobs, a recent survey has found, highlighting the growing strain on the country’s medical system during the pandemic.

A total of 118 nurses, or 51.3% of the 230 respondents, said they had either “always” or “sometimes” considered leaving, citing high levels of stress and concerns about getting infected, a survey conducted in January and February by the Japan National Hospital Workers’ Union showed.

A second state of emergency was declared for Tokyo, Osaka and other prefectures in January, while a third state of emergency is now in place in many of the country’s largest cities.

Of the respondents to the survey who are thinking about quitting, some mentioned fatigue, continued overtime and low wages. One was concerned that nurses may bear the brunt of criticism in the event of an incident.

According to the survey, 79 nurses, or 34.3% of the respondents, said they had experienced discrimination and harassment due to their work in treating COVID-19 patients at hospitals, with one saying a “family member was told to telework because I am a nurse.”

The survey also found that 128 nurses, or 55.7%, had experienced irregularities in their physical or psychological conditions such as being “stressed and tired all the time” and “dehydrated from wearing protective gear against the virus.”

As the country grapples with a fourth wave of infections triggered by highly contagious variants of the virus, hospitals across Japan have been witnessing a high bed occupancy rate for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.

On top of treating patients, nurses are also required to inoculate older people against the coronavirus.

All the governors of the 47 prefectures said in an online meeting last week that they lacked medical staff for the country’s vaccination program, posing a challenge to achieving the target of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government of completing vaccinations of the elderly by the end of July.

Nurses prepare for the start of mass inoculations at a vaccination center in Osaka on Friday. | POOL / VIA KYODO
Nurses prepare for the start of mass inoculations at a vaccination center in Osaka on Friday. | POOL / VIA KYODO

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