By CHIAKI OGIHARA/ Staff Writer
June 29, 2021 at 17:47 JST
The head of a Tokyo hospital that posted signs in its windows in spring asking that the Olympics be canceled now feels the tide is turning against him, filling him with anger and desperation.
A new addition to the signs at?Tachikawa Sogo Hospital in western Tokyo?written in red says, “The hospital head is outraged.”
With less than a month to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Masaya Takahashi, 58, said, “It has become more difficult to say out loud that the Olympics should be stopped. Public opinion has changed with more reports about preparing to hold the Olympics.”
In late April, he posted signs in the hospital's windows that said, “Medical capacity has reached its limits. Stop the Olympics!” and “Give us a break. The Olympics are impossible!”
The signs were spread over social media, and the hospital received words of encouragement and support.
Takahashi knows firsthand that the tight situation in dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic is far from settled.
Shortly after noon on June 22, nurses on the sixth floor of the Tachikawa Sogo Hospital that has been set aside to deal exclusively with COVID-19 patients received a call that a man in his 50s would be admitted at about 3 p.m.
Nurses wore gowns and gloves as infection prevention measures and plastic partitions had also been set up on the floor.
The requests to accept COVID-19 patients has again begun increasing after a period when the numbers had appeared to fall to acceptable levels.
For nine consecutive days from June 20, the number of new COVID-19 cases has exceeded the figure for the same day of the previous week.
The rate of positive results for COVID-19 tests had fallen at one time to under 4 percent, but that figure topped 5 percent on June 25.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in all of Tokyo has remained above 1,000 since early November.
After the first signs were posted in the hospital windows, Takahashi felt there were many people who shared the views expressed, given the encouraging words the hospital received.
The hospital also took other measures to deal with a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. In addition to a special ward, the hospital also converted high care units (HCU) normally used to care for patients just out of surgery into rooms for COVID-19 patients.
From late May until early June, almost all the 20 beds set aside for COVID-19 patients were in use. And even if a bed opened up, it was immediately filled by the next new patient.
But with new cases decreasing, hospital staff at one time considered returning the HCUs back to what they were intended for from July.
However, that plan was shelved on June 28 because not only was the number of new cases increasing, but the pace had also become much quicker than expected.
Because patients who should have been in the HCUs were placed in general ward rooms, the nurses in that ward have had to shoulder a greater burden.
But it has been difficult to increase the nursing staff.
In a normal year, about 15 nurses are hired at times other than the regular start of the fiscal year. But in 2020, the number was far fewer than 10.
Hospital staff have also been forced to endure other measures to prevent infection clusters. Staff eat their lunches sitting separately and facing in one direction.
They have also been asked to not go to restaurants with individuals who are not family members as well as to not cross prefectural borders.
Takahashi is frustrated with?Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga only saying that he received the backing of all the other Group of Seven summit leaders about holding the Olympics and not providing specific measures for preventing further infections.
Takahashi said he would continue to express his views even if they do not produce the desired result.
And with the Olympics to be held in the middle of summer, there are concerns about an increase in heatstroke cases.
“This is an event that will pose major danger to the health of Tokyo residents,” Takahashi said. “If there can be no avoiding holding the event, we will have to prepare the maximum measures as if we are dealing with a ‘natural disaster.’”
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