Hospitals in Japan’s second-largest city, Osaka, are shrinking from a wave of coronavirus cases, running out of beds and ventilators while exhausted doctors warn of a “system collapse” and advise against going ahead. Olympic Games this summer.
The speed with which the Osaka health care system has been overwhelmed underscores the challenges of hosting a key global sporting event in two months, especially when only half of Japanese medical staff have completed vaccines.
“Simply put, this is a collapse of the medical system,” said Yuji Tohda, director of Kindaka University Hospital in Osaka.
“He highly infectious British variant and the fall in alert have caused this explosive growth in the number of patients ”.
Japan has averted the major infections other nations have suffered, but Osaka Prefecture has taken on the weight of the fourth wave, with 3,849 new positive tests between week and Thursday.
This represents a jump of more than five over the corresponding period of three months ago.
Only 14% of the 13,770 COVID-19 patients in the prefecture have been admitted to hospital, leaving most to fend for themselves. In comparison, Tokyo’s latest hospitalization rate is 37 percent.
A government advisory committee considers rates below 25 per cent to be a trigger for considering the possibility of imposing a state of emergency.
As of Thursday, 96 percent of the 348 hospital beds on Osaka reserves for severe virus cases were already in use. Since March, 17 people have died from the disease outside the prefecture’s hospitals, officials said this month.
The variant can make even young people very ill very quickly and, once severe, patients have difficulty recovering, said Dr. Toshiaki Minami, director of Osaka University Medical and Pharmaceutical Hospital (OMPUH). ).
“I think until now many young people thought they were invincible. But this time it can’t be that way. Everyone takes the same risk. ”
Minami said a provider recently told her that stocks of propofol, a key drug used to sedate intubated patients, are very low, while Tohda Hospital runs out of vital ventilators for patients with COVID. -19 seriously ill.
Care for intensive care patients in the face of the risk of infection has severely affected staff, said Satsuki Nakayama, head of OMPUH’s nursing department.
“I have intensive care unit (ICU) staff who say they have reached a breaking point,” he added. “I need to think about a change of staff to attract people from other hospital wings.”
About 500 doctors and 950 nurses work at OMPUH, which manages 832 beds. Ten of its 16 ICU beds have been dedicated to patients with viruses. Twenty of the approximately 140 serious patients admitted to the hospital died in the ICU.
Yasunori Komatsu, who runs a union of regional government employees, said conditions were also appalling for public health nurses at local health centers, who maintain contact between patients and medical institutions.
“Some of them accumulate 100, 150, 200 overtime hours and this has been going on for a year … when on duty, sometimes they go home at one or two in the morning and go to bed only to be woken up by a phone call at three or four ”.
Medical professionals with first-hand experience of the Osaka struggle with the pandemic have a negative opinion about the holding of the Tokyo Games, which will take place from July 23 to August 8. already requested the cancellation of the event given the pressure on city hospitals.
“The Olympics should be stopped, as we have no longer been able to stop the flow of new variants from England, and the next one could be a flow of Indian variants,” said Dr Akira Takasu, head of medicine. emergency at OMPUH.
He was referring to a variant first encountered in India which the World Health Organization (WHO) designated as worrisome after initial studies showed that it spread more easily.
“At the Olympics, 70,000 or 80,000 athletes and people will come to this country from all over the world. That could be the trigger for another disaster in the summer. ”