OSAKA, Japan: The spread of the Covid virus in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, is causing what doctors call a “system collapse” of the city’s healthcare network.
Osaka, located in Japan’s western region with a population of 9 million people, representing 7 percent of Japan’s population, has accounted for one-third of the country’s Covid death toll in May.
“Simply put, this is a collapse of the medical system,” said Yuji Tohda, the director of Kindai University Hospital in Osaka, as quoted by Reuters.
“The highly infectious British variant and slipping alertness have led to this explosive growth in the number of patients,” he added.
Japan had earlier avoided the high rate of infections seen by other nations. However, the fourth pandemic wave struck Osaka, which recorded 3,849 new positive tests in the week ending May 20, a five-fold increase in three months.
Also, as of May 20, 96 percent of the 348 hospital beds Osaka reserves for serious virus cases were occupied.
Additionally, the variant spreading through Osaka is often striking young people, who are becoming seriously ill.
“I believe that until now, many young people thought they were invincible. But that can’t be the case this time around. Everyone is equally bearing the risk,” said Toshiaki Minami, director of the Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University Hospital.
Caring for critically ill patients has taken a serious toll on the staff, said Satsuki Nakayama, the head of the nursing department at Osaka Medical Hospital.
“I’ve got some intensive care unit staff saying they have reached a breaking point,” she added. “I need to think of personnel change to bring in people from other hospital wings,” she told Reuters.
Healthcare workers union official Yasunori Komatsu said conditions were dire for public health nurses at local health centres.
“Some of them are racking up 100, 150, 200 hours of overtime, and that has been going on for a year now…when on duty, they sometimes go home at one or two in the morning, and go to bed only to be awakened by a phone call at three or four,” said Komatsu.
Due to the surge in Covid cases, medical professionals are urging the cancellation of the upcoming Japanese Olympic games, scheduled from July 23 to August 8.
“The Olympics should be stopped, because we already have failed to stop the flow of new variants from England, and next might be an inflow of Indian variants,” said Akira Takasu, the head of emergency medicine at Osaka Medical Hospital.
“In the Olympics, 70,000 or 80,000 athletes and people will come to this country from around the world. This may be a trigger for another disaster in the summer,” as quoted by Reuters.