At Facilities for the Elderly, Reinforce Defenses against Disaster and Disease

The novel coronavirus pandemic is expected to be prolonged. In order to maintain nursing care services, it is important not only to strengthen current measures to respond to the disease, but also to prepare for future developments in a planned manner on a daily basis.

It is feared that the resurgence of the infectious disease will have an impact on residents and employees of nursing care facilities for the elderly. If too many people are infected with the virus at these facilities, staff members who have had close contact with infected patients would not be able to come to work, resulting in a labor shortage and hindering nursing care services.

When elderly people are infected with the virus, their symptoms easily become serious. It is vital to take every possible measure against the infectious disease at nursing care facilities for the aged or business establishments that provide home-visit nursing care services, such as by expanding polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

Assuming that it will take time to bring the situation under control, it is desirable to carry out training sessions for staff members to continue learning how to deal with the infectious disease. Masks and disinfectants, among other supplies, should be secured in sufficient quantities.

A growing number of private companies and other entities are drawing up business continuity plans that include measures against the coronavirus. The plans are aimed at deciding in advance how to prioritize operations and allocate personnel in response to the spread of the disease.

Even amid the spread of infections, it is necessary to continue providing at least minimum nursing care services. It would be effective for nursing care facilities for the aged to clarify specific procedures for close cooperation with public health centers, hospitals, local governments and other related entities.

In recent years, many facilities for elderly people have been hit by typhoons and other disasters. Plans should include training sessions on dealing with natural disasters as well as disease outbreaks.

It is important to create effective plans in cooperation with relevant organizations and to share them with users and families.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is reportedly considering asking businesses to draw up their own plans. The ministry is urged to support their planning efforts by providing financial assistance.

As revision of nursing care fees, which are the official prices paid to nursing care business operators under the nursing care insurance program, is planned in the next fiscal year, the debate on the issue at a ministry panel has entered the final stage. It is necessary to appropriately deal with the coronavirus and improve the treatment of employees.

In October last year, the government introduced a system in which companies that raise the salaries of experienced and skilled nursing care workers are paid an additional fee commensurate with that experience and skills. However, it is reported that only about 60% of businesses actually used the system.

The reasons for the low rate appear to be that the requirements for the system are difficult to understand and the procedures are complicated. It is urgent to review the system to make it easier to use and more widespread.

The health ministry intends to raise the upper limit on out-of-pocket expenses for high-income nursing care service users in the next fiscal year. It is understandable to ask users to take on a certain share of the financial burden depending on their economic ability. As the aging of the nation’s population progresses, continued efforts must be made to ensure the efficient operation of the system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2020)