TOKYO — As Japan limits COVID-19 hospitalizations to the sickest amid surging cases, medical equipment makers have ramped up output of oxygen concentrators and other products to ensure a steady supply for those being treated at home.
The government announced Thursday that it plans to limit hospitalizations in hot spots to serious and high-risk cases, with others directed to recover at home. As even many people in the latter category are expected to develop breathing problems, municipalities are moving to secure necessary equipment.
Daikin Industries plans to more than double production of concentrators, which produce medical-grade oxygen, this fiscal year, running facilities in China at full blast to meet demand from sellers.
Teijin subsidiary Teijin Pharma, Japan’s top supplier of oxygen concentrators, has boosted average monthly shipments by 10% compared with December 2019. No. 2 Fukuda Denshi in April stepped up production at a plant in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo, apparently lifting output to 50% above pre-coronavirus levels.
Pulse oximeters, which can measure a patient’s blood oxygen levels — a crucial indicator for people with COVID-19 — are also in high demand.
Nihon Seimitsu Sokki, Japan’s top maker of pulse oximeters and an original equipment manufacturer for such companies as Terumo, has increased capacity by 50% since last December. Konica Minolta said in April that it had secured a 20-fold capacity boost, expanding production at an Aichi Prefecture plant in stages.
But the global chip shortage has left many of these companies struggling to source components. Fukuda Denshi’s production of oxygen concentrators has been affected, along with a wide range of other products.
Nihon Seimitsu’s actual output of pulse oximeters has increased only about 20% to 30%, less than its full added capacity, due to trouble sourcing a dozen or so different semiconductors and electronic components. It is currently exploring options including alternative parts. Teijin Pharma has had delays in procuring chips for pulse oximeters as well.