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18% of clinics in Japan refuse to accept stroke patients due to coronavirus: survey

An ambulance is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

TOKYO -- About 20% of medical institutions in Japan were not able to accept emergency stroke patients and were downsizing their medical care systems due to the new coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the Japan Stroke Society.

    The main reason is that medical institutions are using their hospital beds for coronavirus patients. Strokes tend to increase in winter, and the society stresses the importance of preventing the spread of coronavirus infections in order to protect emergency medical workers from life-threatening diseases.

    The survey covered 974 medical institutions certified by the society as having a system to treat stroke patients. Of the 714 organizations that responded to the survey, 131, or 18%, answered that they were "restricting treatment" such as refusing to accept emergency patients in some cases. Of these, 13 or 2% (??) had completely stopped accepting emergency patients. Most of those institutions were in the Kinki region, including Osaka, Hyogo and Nara prefectures.

    The specific causes for the restrictions were: there were no beds available because coronavirus patients were being treated in intensive care units and other facilities; medical personnel could no longer work because of coronavirus infections or close contact with such patients; the time required per patient increased due to thorough disinfection of clinic areas; and so on.

    The survey results were as of Dec. 14 last year and coronavirus infections have been spreading since then, so it is possible that the number of medical institutions downsizing their treatment systems has increased further.

    Teruyuki Hirano, a professor at Kyorin University Faculty of Medicine and a member of the board of directors of the society, said, "The emergency medical system is now likely to be further strained than at the time of the survey. If infections spread further, there is a risk that emergency medical services will collapse and lives that could be saved will not be saved. I hope people will take thorough measures to prevent infections, such as washing their hands in their daily lives."

    (Japanese original by Go Kumagai, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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