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As Japan re-opens, a hospital grapples with COVID-19 aftermath

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YOKOHAMA: Docs in white coats and blue scrubs sat round a convention room desk in June, trying up at a vibrant slide projected on the wall. 

“How is anybody alleged to memorise this?” a health care provider sitting within the again requested as Yoshihiro Masui, the director of Yokohama Metropolis Seibu Hospital’s essential care centre, checked the slides. 

The presentation, filled with colour-coded movement charts, confirmed dozens of latest security protocols for every part from routine surgical procedures to dialysis.

Weeks earlier, Seibu had been the positioning of one of many worst hospital coronavirus outbreaks in Japan, with about 80 folks testing constructive for COVID-19, together with 43 workers members. By the point the hospital contained the unfold, 13 aged sufferers had died.

For many of Could, the 500-bed hospital, in a port metropolis 30km south of Tokyo, had sat empty. After the outbreak, it halted practically all outpatient companies. Docs and nurses had been required to spend two weeks at house, monitoring for signs earlier than they may return to work.    

READ: Tokyo’s new COVID-19 containment steps aim to balance economy and health

Now, because the nation emerges from a state of emergency, hospitals like Seibu face the prospect of working within the shadow of a virus with no remedy or treatment.

“We will by no means have an outbreak once more just like the one we skilled,” stated Masui, an emergency physician who has been charged with the hospital’s coronavirus response. “What we discovered is that this may really occur wherever.” 


Docs and nurses at Seibu had been among the many first to mobilise for the pandemic in Japan, accepting sick passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February. 

After treating dozens of coronavirus sufferers, a person with no fever and no different apparent signs was carried into the emergency room in early April. The person was saved in a room with one other affected person earlier than he was discharged to a different facility. By the point the workers discovered in late April the person had the virus, it had already unfold to different wings of the hospital.

Masui says he felt chargeable for the outbreak.

“I pushed the hospital to absorb suspected coronavirus sufferers, figuring out different hospitals had been turning them away,” he stated throughout a uncommon break between his rounds. “I used to be the one convincing the pinnacle of the hospital to take these sufferers in.”

Greater than 18,000 folks have examined constructive for the virus in Japan. The variety of new coronavirus instances have fallen since mid-April and with 971 deaths, the nation has up to now managed to dodge the type of catastrophic demise toll seen elsewhere. 

However for medical staff, new outbreaks stay a continuing risk. The Mainichi newspaper discovered that 99 medical amenities have reported infections.

New security precautions to protect in opposition to the coronavirus could make life-saving measures harder.

Kentaro Sato, a 29-year previous physician within the emergency room, spent two weeks at house after he rushed to resuscitate a baby who abruptly went into cardiac arrest. 

“I knew I needed to placed on a robe beforehand however I assumed, this can be a child, and I’ve to do one thing to assist,” stated Sato, who discovered later the affected person had a fever and was suspected of getting COVID-19. Earlier than the check got here again unfavorable, Sato spent days fretting he might have unfold the virus to colleagues and different sufferers.


For months earlier than its outbreak, the hospital had taken in sufferers rejected or referred by different hospitals. As soon as, Seibu admitted a coronavirus affected person who had been rejected from practically 100 hospitals in Tokyo, stated Fumiaki Sano, the deputy director of the hospital.

“Now, I’m wondering if we had perhaps taken on an excessive amount of,” Sano stated in his workplace overlooking the timber within the parking zone. After information of the outbreak unfold, the hospital obtained a torrent of offended calls from close by companies. Some nurses had been shunned by neighbours once they heard they had been caring for coronavirus sufferers.

READ: Half of Tokyo residents oppose Olympics in 2021: Poll

Since resuming operations on Jun 8, the hospital has seen 450 sufferers a day. Anybody who requires an in a single day keep is first examined for the virus and positioned in an remoted ward during their keep. The hospital is admitting solely 60 sufferers at a time, preserving most of its wards sitting empty. 

“We will not keep afloat like this,” Sano says, including that the hospital had misplaced greater than half of its income for outpatient companies in Could. 

On the entrance of the hospital, aged sufferers waited in line to have their temperature checked. Workers in face shields, masks and plastic gloves guarded the hospital’s automated doorways, asking every affected person to reply a dozen questions earlier than letting them in. 

Inside, in a darkened hallway removed from the busy hospital foyer, a letter from Sano addressed to workers held on a discover board.

“I’m positive lots of you, like me, are feeling anguish, fear, remorse, and agony,” he wrote. “However we now have sufferers ready for us to reopen and we now have an obligation to supply the mandatory medical care to our neighborhood.”

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