TOKYO >> Efforts are accelerating in urban areas to develop dedicated COVID-19 treatment facilities so that patients will be able to receive swift care in the event of a resurgence of infections.
Since Sept. 30, Tokyo Joto Hospital has been operating as a COVID-19 facility, with 50 beds for patients with mild or moderate symptoms. The hospital’s inpatient care is dedicated solely to coronavirus patients. It still offers outpatient services.
To ready a hospital for COVID-19 care exclusively, it must be equipped with ventilators and sufficient staff, and governed by infection prevention measures.
At Tokyo Joto, doctors have been dispatched from a neighboring university hospital and other facilities, and nurses have been recruited by such organizations as the Japanese Red Cross Society.
But a few weeks ago, with COVID-19 cases dropping, the daily number of hospitalized patients never exceeded five. On Nov. 12, it had no hospitalizations, and that left some health care providers questioning such facilities.
“I wonder if it is such a good idea to limit general medical care and leave beds unoccupied for a long time,” said Atsushi Chuma, head of the hospital, just a couple of weeks ago. “On the other hand, we have no choice because we have to be able to respond swiftly if infections spread again.”
Now, as the new omicron variant spreads rapidly across the globe, Japan’s preparedness could prove valuable.
Other Tokyo hospitals operating as dedicated COVID-19 treatment centers include Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital, Toshima Hospital and the Ebara Hospital.
Meanwhile, Osaka City Juso Hospital also has been turned into a dedicated COVID-19 facility with 70 beds. The Osaka government also created a temporary medical facility with 1,000 beds at the Intex Osaka exhibition center.
Many coronavirus patients died at home in the spring, during the fourth wave of the pandemic, prompting Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura to focus on providing beds for receiving medical treatment.
By the end of October, 800 beds for asymptomatic people and those with mild symptoms, and 200 beds for those with moderate symptoms had been installed at the facility.
The beds are in partitioned spaces just shy of 130 square feet. Spaces for patients with moderate symptoms are equipped with oxygen masks, and patients will be able to receive antibody treatments to avert severe symptoms. Mattresses and pillows from the Tokyo 2020 athletes’ village are being reused at the facility, which also is equipped with washing machines and shower rooms.
Construction and operation costs of the privately operated facility total about $73.2 million, and some 43 doctors and 174 nurses have been secured to staff the center, which is set to remain open through May 2022.
The Osaka government plans to use the center if a disaster-level resurgence of cases exceeds the capacity of hospitals and recuperation facilities.
“It would be best if there was no need to use these beds. But I would like them to be available in the event of an emergency,” Yoshimura said.