• Yomiuri Editorial
  • Grasping numbers of COVID-19 patients

Reduce burden on frontline workers to improve medical care

There is no prospect of the seventh wave of the coronavirus pandemic being brought under control, and the operations of medical institutions and public health centers have become strained. It is vital to reduce the burden of clerical work and improve and expand necessary medical care services.

The government has decided on measures to review its response to the coronavirus.

Currently, doctors report to local governments the names, ages, birth dates and other information of all infected patients. With regard to this reporting system covering all the patients, local governments will be able to limit the scope of reports to public health centers to the elderly and those with underlying diseases, at their discretion.

This new system is positioned as an emergency measure in areas where the number of patients is rapidly increasing. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed, “We’ve put top priority on protecting the lives of the elderly and others at high risk.”

For the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, COVID-19 is a scary disease. Although the burden on medical institutions will become lighter, they need to strengthen their medical treatment systems so that they will be able to reliably treat the elderly and others.

Reports by medical institutions are currently made through HER-SYS, a national system for consolidating information on infected people, but there have been complaints from frontline workers that there are too many entry items.

It is putting the cart before the horse if medical workers spend too much time and effort on clerical procedures and therefore do not have enough time for essential medical examinations and observations. A review is inevitable.

On the other hand, those who fall outside the scope of reporting under the new system are at risk of not receiving adequate monitoring by medical workers. Even though patients such as young people often have only mild symptoms, the lack of contact from public health centers will cause some people to feel uneasy.

To provide consultations for these people, the government has said “health follow-up centers” will be established in all prefectures. There is an urgent need to establish a consultation system.

One concern is that leaving decisions to local governments could lead to support for patients varying from region to region. It is necessary to not create confusion.

Meanwhile, the government intends to keep track of the number of new cases as it has in the past. It should immediately provide specific measures on how to collect the data.

The government is also considering introducing a uniform nationwide method of reporting only for those at high risk of serious illness, rather than leaving the decisions to local governments. Analyzing the effects and challenges in detail is a prerequisite for the idea.

Kishida has also announced the easing of border control measures against the coronavirus. If a person has received three doses of the vaccine, he or she will be exempted from the requirement to have a negative test certificate at the time of entry.

Japan’s strict border control measures have been a hindrance to accepting visitors to the country. It is hoped the government will proceed with the easing of border control measures in phases after determining the infection situation in Japan and abroad.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2022)