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Osaka gov't retracts official's request to delay aging COVID-19 patients' hospitalization

The Osaka Prefectural Government headquarters (Mainichi/Yumi Shibamura)

OSAKA -- Amid the alarming spike in coronavirus cases in Osaka Prefecture, a prefectural government official notified local public health centers that elderly COVID-19 patients need to be lower priority for hospitalization due to pressure to secure hospital beds in the region.

    The Osaka Prefectural Government later retracted the notice, saying it used inaccurate expressions, and issued a strict warning to the senior prefectural official.

    The senior worker in the Department of Public Health and Medical Affairs, who is in charge of adjusting hospital spots for coronavirus patients, is the top technical staffer with a doctor's license. Stating that severe COVID-19 patients in the prefecture had outnumbered the amount of hospital beds set aside for severe coronavirus cases, he emailed the heads of 18 public health centers in Osaka Prefecture on April 19, saying, "In regard to elderly people, we have no choice but to lower the priority on their hospitalization."

    The official also called on public health centers to consider measures including having elderly care homes look after their COVID-19 patients until their death if the resident had indicated their intention to decline cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event of cardiac arrest.

    The email notice was distributed despite the prefectural government's basic rule to hospitalize all COVID-19 patients aged 65 and above except for asymptomatic or mild cases.

    The head of the prefectural government's Department of Public Health and Medical Affairs commented, "There's no way we would push down the priority of hospitalization on the grounds of advanced age."

    It was revealed that COVID-19 patients aged 70 or older accounted for 49.8% of all coronavirus patients admitted to medical institutions in the prefecture from April 20 onwards -- after the email was sent -- up 5 percentage points from before the email notification. The department head said, "The email absolutely never influenced adjustments for hospital spots."

    The official who released the email in question offered an apology and said, "I meant to request that care homes consider, as one option, looking after elderly residents unwilling to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but my words were insufficient. I deeply regret what I wrote."

    (Japanese original by Masaki Ishikawa and Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Osaka City News Department)

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