[Japan] Health ministry urges local governments to arrange role-sharing for hospitals
The health ministry asked local governments on Tuesday to arrange a division of roles among hospitals dealing with the novel coronavirus, saying institutions capable of providing advanced medical care, such as university hospitals, should be in charge of seriously ill patients. The ministry aims to establish a medical system to prevent shortages of hospital beds, even when infections spread.
The request came in a document issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry that also introduces a method of partitioning an intensive care unit (ICU) with a wall to keep infected people away from other patients, when receiving seriously ill patients.
According to the document, regional core hospitals operated by local governments or public organizations should be in charge of moderately ill patients. The ministry urges governments of prefectures and major cities to secure facilities dedicated to the novel coronavirus, with the cooperation of local medical associations and other organizations. The document says such facilities should be designated on a per hospital ward or a per institution basis.
The document also advises them to discuss and coordinate with local medical experts when deciding on the division of roles among hospitals.
In order for university hospitals to treat many critically ill patients effectively, the document points out that it is necessary to designate other hospitals to support them by accepting patients after recovery.
The ministry expects small and medium-sized hospitals, for which it would be difficult to receive COVID-19 patients who are still ill, to take up the recovery support role. The document suggests measures such as compiling a list of hospitals to play that role and utilize it when transferring patients.
The document describes the efforts of the Osaka and Kanagawa prefectural governments, which have set up teams to support changing hospitals. The teams have helped hospitals manage their beds and provide counseling.
It also calls on local governments to commission home care agencies to conduct online health checks for those who are receiving treatment at home.
To cope with the shortage of human resources, it urges local governments to send doctors, nurses and other staff to hospitals that accept COVID-19 patients.