Coronavirus spreads through hospitals in Japan

“Patients were infected one after another. I have no idea how this could have happened.”

NHK spoke to a nurse at a hospital in Tokyo where a coronavirus outbreak is suspected to have occurred.

The nurse continues to show up to work, taking extra precautions. But the hospital is running out of protective gear and surgical masks. She says the staff is overwhelmed.

“If one nurse tests positive, all the other staff members who came into contact with that person have to stay home for two weeks,” she says. “That leaves the remaining nurses with even more work.”

In-house infections rampant across Japan

An NHK survey found that as of April 21st, the total number of confirmed and suspected cases of hospital infections stood at 1,086, at 60 medical institutions across Japan. The figure accounts for nearly 10% of all coronavirus infections in the country. 513 cases are doctors, nurses, or other healthcare workers, while 534 are patients.

Tokyo is the prefecture with the most hospital infections, with 454, followed by Osaka with 155.

The surge of in-house infections has led many facilities to suspend outpatient treatment and cut back on other services.

Namihaya Rehabilitation Hospital in Osaka City has confirmed about 130 cases. City officials said on Thursday that the hospital instructed a nurse to continue working despite testing positive for the virus.

The city launched an investigation into the matter after a tweet by the nurse criticizing the hospital’s poor management.

The nurse added that the issue was a result of an acute shortage in manpower, saying some staff members were working 24 hours without breaks. She says the hospital wouldn’t have forced her colleague to work after testing positive if it had a large enough staff.

A nurse at the Namihaya Rehabilitation Hospital in Osaka City was forced to continue working after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Standard measures not up to scratch

Shinkomonji Hospital in Kitakyushu City, southern Japan, specializes in emergency medicine. One patient and 19 staff members there have been found to be infected.

Kai Hidenobu, the head of the hospital, says standard measures used against infectious diseases have proved ineffective against the coronavirus.

He says the virus was able to spread in his hospital because its zoning rules were insufficient. He also says staff members did not properly disinfect keyboards and other equipment. He adds that medical workers tend to prioritize the treatment of patients, which means they often to do not give themselves adequate attention.

The hospital has suspended emergency operations until next month, when it plans to implement stricter measures against infection.

Professor Tateda Kazuhiro, head of the Japanese Association of Infectious Diseases, says with the coronavirus, there is no such thing as zero risk. He says since people can be infected without showing any symptoms, the virus is particularly easy to spread. For this reason, he says it is important for people to constantly be on alert and try to avoid any situations that could lead to infection.