Few cleaners ready to accept virus ward jobs

A Japanese government survey has found that only a fraction of cleaning firms across the country are able to handle hospitals with COVID-19 patients.

Amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases, nurses and other medical staff are being forced to clean hospital rooms and change bedclothes, which is normally outside their duties. This has been putting a strain on medical institutions.

The health ministry conducted the survey urgently last month through an industry association to examine the possibility of outsourcing such tasks.

The survey found that of the 1,000 cleaning firms across Japan that handles hospitals, only 88 of them, or less than 10 percent, replied that they can take on jobs at facilities that accept coronavirus patients.

Many of these firms are located in urban areas including Tokyo and Osaka, Aichi and Saitama prefectures.

Ministry officials said healthcare facilities were given the names of these firms via prefectural governments. The information was not released to the public to avoid the risk of reputational damage.

The officials added that the survey may not be reflecting the real picture, because more than 40 percent of cleaning firms did not reply by the December 25 deadline.

The Japan Building Maintenance Association said that in order for firms to take on jobs at virus-related facilities, state or other subsidies are necessary. It said cleaning firms incur high costs for detergents, protective gear and PCR tests for their staff.