We urge Kishida Cabinet to fulfill responsibility to fight covid-19 infection (urgent statement)

August 29, 2022
Tsuyoshi Masuda
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions

As the seventh wave of covid-19 infections becomes a serious outbreak, the number of new cases and deaths continue to reach record highs. Responses of medical facilities have exceeded their limits, hindering their general services, including emergency care and surgery. With the infection spreading among medical and nursing care workers, many of their facilities have restricted operations one after another due to labor shortages. They have suffered serious management problems as there is no substantial compensation for them.

The Kishida administration has failed to meet even the minimum policy goal of carefully resuming economic activities without causing strain on health care. It is making an irreversible mistake by leaving the matter to take its own course. The government leaves important public health decisions, such as identifying and reporting infection cases, to local governments and fails to remind the public of infection control measures and express its appreciation for medical and nursing care fields. It takes measures that are the exact opposite of reducing infections, such as shortening the period of restrictions of activities for infected people, whose evidence lacks substance, and relaxing waterfront measures.

On August 25, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that the association of directors of public health centers in Saitama Prefecture made representations to the prefectural government. Stating that it wants to “save the lives that can be saved,” the association demanded measures to control the number of infected people, stating, “Reducing the number of infected people will contribute to reducing serious cases and deaths.” It expressed concerns about downgrading of covid-19 to “Category 5” and changing the current policy of reporting all coronavirus cases by saying, “If the only reason for those changes is because the present system is too hard for public health centers and medical facilities, it is to simply keep a lid on the problem and not face it, which is far from a fundamental solution.” The head of the association said, “For those with health vulnerability, coronavirus infections are still a high-risk disease that can cause death. Discussions of policy changes should take place with residents in the prefecture and the country as the central figures.” He argued, “We will continue to work hard in our mission to save lives,” and, “We must never allow a situation in which it is already too late when a patient is taken to a medical institution.”

The government should take seriously the pride of public health center directors, who are now in the toughest environment.

As a medical and nursing care organization that has consistently worked on the covid-19 pandemic, the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions demands that the government urgently take the following measures in light of the current critical situation:

(1) Publicize to the entire public that the current outbreak is the largest one and medical and nursing care facilities are in dire straits; urge people to take individual measures against infection; urgently set out a policy to reduce the number of new cases.

(2) Expand testing facilities so that infected patients with asymptomatic or mild symptoms can easily take PCR tests; promptly establish a system that allows patients to receive appropriate medical care without having to go through a medical facility; Secure sufficient inpatient beds, expand fever outpatient clinics and homecare services to ensure that patients with fever who are in great pain and need emergency care can be treated.

(3) Create an environment that allows persons with fever to be absent from work or school unconditionally; reinstruct companies and schools to refrain from requiring proof of infection.

(4) Be cautious in changing policies (e.g., shortening the period of restrictions of activities) whose evidence lacks substance; carefully examine the present policy to ensure that the change in the policy of reporting all infection cases does not lead to serious illnesses or hinder medical care services as local governments are concerned about.

(5) Promptly formulate specific support options to prevent the collapse of medical and nursing care services, such as extending a support measure for medical and nursing care facilities undergoing management difficulties, which will be terminated at the end of September, until the infection is brought under control.

(6) Urgently assist management of public health centers that are in dire straits; recognize the importance of public health and review policies to drastically expand its system.

(7) To promote safe vaccination, actively collect and analyze information on adverse events caused by vaccination, disclose it transparently, and provide prompt and full compensation to victims.