Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses.
In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics.
The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries. . . .
The “collapse of emergency medicine” has already happened, a precursor to the overall collapse of medicine, the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine said in a joint statement. By turning away patients, hospitals are putting an excessive burden on the limited number of advanced and critical emergency centers, the groups said. . . .
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government has secured 15,000 ventilators and is getting support of Sony and Toyota Motor Corp. to produce more.
Japanese hospitals also lack ICUs, with only five per 100,000 people, compared to about 30 in Germany, 35 in the U.S. and 12 in Italy, said Osamu Nishida, head of the Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine.
Italy’s 10% mortality rate, compared to Germany’s 1%, is partly due to the shortage of ICU facilities, Nishida said. “Japan, with ICUs not even half of Italy’s, is expected to face a fatality overshoot very quickly,” he said.
Japan has been limiting testing for the coronavirus mainly because of rules requiring any patients to be hospitalized. Surging infections have prompted the Health Ministry to loosen those rules and move patients with milder symptoms to hotels to free up beds for those requiring more care.
Calls for social distancing have not worked well enough in crowded cities like Tokyo, experts say, with many people still commuting to offices in crowded trains even after the prime minister declared a state of emergency.
Mass transit kills.