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Editorial: Make utmost efforts to prevent collapse of Japan’s medical system in virus fight

  • April 16, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 11.55 a.m.
  • English Press

The government must work together with relevant organizations to take steps swiftly to protect the medical system.


With the number of people infected with the new coronavirus increasing rapidly, seven prefectures subject to the government’s declaration of a state of emergency are running short of hospital beds for such patients. It is necessary for the entire medical community to make efforts to secure hospital beds by shifting from the current situation in which the reliance is on hospitals designated to treat infectious diseases.


The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and another organization have issued a statement saying that they have been “aware of the breakdown in emergency medical care.” There have been many cases in which hospitals are reluctant to accept patients who complain of fever or other symptoms as the patients are suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus. There is also a shortage of medical supplies and human resources.


If the readiness of medical institutions declines, that could affect the treatment of other patients such as those suffering from a stroke and injured in traffic accidents.


The government should take the opinions of medical professionals seriously and make it the top priority to improve the readiness of medical treatment systems.


It is crucial to create an environment in which designated hospitals, which are responsible for providing advanced medical services, can concentrate on treating patients with serious symptoms.


More than a few people have survived after using medical devices such as artificial ventilators and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) systems. It is essential to have well-trained medical teams manage operations around the clock.


To ensure the lives that can be saved are saved, we must make the best of limited human resources and medical equipment.


To this end, it is necessary to increase the number of hospitals that accept patients with serious symptoms.


The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has asked university hospitals nationwide to accept more people infected with the virus. It is expected that these hospitals would treat patients with moderate symptoms of pneumonia in addition to those with severe symptoms of the disease.


At university hospitals, patients suffering from cancer, heart disease and other ailments are concentrated. They are urged to cooperate while minimizing the impact on these patients.


It is also important to triage patients according to their coronavirus infection symptoms. To reduce the burden on medical institutions, it would be effective to make people with mild symptoms recuperate at home or in accommodation facilities.


The Tokyo metropolitan government and other local governments have rented out hotels as temporary accommodations for people with mild symptoms. Such efforts must be accelerated in other prefectures.


The danger of this infectious disease is that there have been cases in which patients’ conditions rapidly deteriorated. It is hoped that preparations are made to allow the condition of patients to be checked more closely and hospitalized, if necessary, with the cooperation of private practitioners and other professionals.


On the medical front, masks and gowns for medical use, among other items, are running short. If the infection spreads within hospitals, local medical services could become dysfunctional.


The government should increase calls for relevant companies in the nation to ensure a stable supply of medical equipment.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 16, 2020.

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