Government must address strained medical care amid Covid-19 eighth wave

December 28, 2022
Tsuyoshi Masuda
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions

The eighth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is raging with record numbers of infections and deaths. Clusters have broken out in medical and elderly care facilities throughout the country. Their daily care services have been greatly hampered as many healthcare workers have been infected or had close contact with coronavirus patients.
Strained medical care has caused serious consequences as infected elderly patients are forced to remain in elderly care facilities.

Focusing on the resumption of economic activities, the government has not imposed movement restrictions. The prime minister and his cabinet members have failed to issue any effective message to the public regarding the plight of medical and nursing care facilities. At the beginning of the recent extraordinary session of the Diet, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in his policy speech looked back on the seventh wave, which caused the largest number of deaths, and said, “We were able to get through the summer without declaring a state of emergency or imposing other restriction orders for the first time in three years.” This shows his administration’s lack of sense of crisis. Furthermore, as the media has been focusing on reporting outrageous decisions the Kishida administration forcibly made through behind-closed-door discussions, such as new defense policies and a complete turnaround of nuclear power generation policies, it has failed to show the public the critical situation of medical facilities, which is becoming more serious every day.
While there are 100,000 ? 200,000 infected cases every day, the positivity rate in testing at fever outpatient clinics is high. Since infection cases outside four categories (the elderly, the pregnant, those requiring hospitalization, and those feared to develop serious symptoms and require treatment) are difficult to ascertain, the actual number of infected persons should be much higher than reported. The government must recognize how serious the present situation is, in which more than 300 people pass away every day.

According to a survey conducted from December 19 to 25 by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the Internal Affairs Ministry, the number of cases in which emergency patients were not able to be transported promptly was 6,800, exceeding the peak of the seventh wave. The number increased for eight consecutive weeks and marked the worst since the survey began in April 2020.
According to ambulance teams, the number of emergency calls has increased to the point that they are unable to respond to them, and the number of such calls from infected patients who are at home without notifying local governments or public health centers of their infection has increased, causing difficulties in coordinating hospitalization.
If this trend continues, it is very likely to lead to a medical collapse in January.

We, medical facilities affiliated with the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions, continue to stand by and protect the lives of residents and patients in collaboration with medical associations and other medical and nursing care organizations as well as local medical and nursing care facilities. We urgently and strongly make the following requests to the government:

1. Accurately identify medical emergencies and inform the public.
We demand that the prime minister give due consideration to medical facilities and send necessary messages to the public.

2. Strengthen inspection systems and enhance information collection by simplifying infection reporting processes.

3. Develop necessary medical examination services and provide personnel and financial support to medical bodies.

4. Build a system that can swiftly administer therapeutic drugs to those who wish to receive them.

5. Provide financial assistance to all elderly care facilities which have clusters and experience financial difficulties.