Tue, December 07, 2021


[Japan] New hospital bed allocation plan required by May

One of the reasons the government decided to end the coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures on Sunday was because of lower hospital bed occupancy rates.

According to the health ministry, the rate in Tokyo peaked at 83.6% on Jan. 13, but it had dropped to 25.1% as of Tuesday. The rates in Saitama and Chiba prefectures also dropped to under 40%.

“Under the current infection situation, [the hospital bed occupancy rate] is at a level that would not rapidly reach a crisis situation,” an official from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

In preparation for a possible resurgence of infections after the end of the state of emergency, the government revised its basic policy on dealing with the pandemic, to strengthen the structure of medical care in two phases.

The central government will first ask municipal governments in urban areas to make a plan for a situation in which daily novel coronavirus cases double in two weeks and reach twice the number seen at the peak of the “third wave.” For Tokyo, this would mean daily cases jumping from about 2,500 to about 5,000 in two weeks.

Since securing new hospital beds will take time, the key will be to strengthen measures for those who receive care at home or in lodgings such as hotels. Municipal governments will be asked to work with local medical associations to promptly set up a cooperation system that includes doctors making home visits.

The central government will then request prefectural governments to comprehensively revise their plans to secure hospital beds. The central and prefectural governments underestimated the situation when writing up the plan last year.

As a result, Tokyo ended up having over 9,000 COVID-19 patients staying at home at one point during the third wave of infections, even though the Tokyo metropolitan government gradually increased the number of hospital beds secured for coronavirus patients to about 5,000 from the original 3,500.

In order to increase the number of available beds for COVID-19 patients, the health ministry is considering asking hospitals to report the maximum number of COVID-19 patients they can admit after a thorough review of the numbers of beds, doctors and nurses required for other treatments.

“We need hospitals to fundamentally review their bed usage,” a health ministry official said.

The health ministry’s deadline for prefectural governments to submit their revised bed plans is the end of May. However, there is criticism within the central government about the ministry’s lack of speed.

Some say that May is likely too late because there is no telling when the spread of coronavirus variants may cause a new surge in infections. Therefore, the health ministry is now adjusting its plans so that interim reports will be submitted in April and will be made public.

Published : March 20, 2021

By : Takaya Toda Yomiuri Shimbun/The Japan News/ANN