Japan’s Health Ministry to Help Hospitals Secure more Beds for COVID-19 Patients

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will provide support to medical institutions amid a bed shortage caused by the latest surge in novel coronavirus infections.

Support will include funds for the “zoning” of intensive care units (ICUs) with partition walls and constructing prefabricated wards for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The government hopes to secure hospital beds as swiftly as possible at existing medical facilities and sites and ensure the availability of treatment for patients with COVID-19 and other medical conditions.

The ministry has notified prefectural governments and related bodies that it plans to cover all necessary costs.

Prefectural governments had 3,582 hospital beds exclusively for severe COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday. However, about 17,000 ICU and similar functioning beds are available across Japan and their effective use is urgently needed.

Such beds are often in large wards. If they are used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, it will not be possible to treat patients such as those with heart disease or cancer because of the increased risk of infection.

The ministry will provide institutions with support to erect wall partitions made of plywood or vinyl to divide ICU units and install negative pressure devices that control airflow as part of infection prevention measures.

The support will be provided through an emergency comprehensive support grant being allocated to medical institutions by prefectures.

The grant will also fully subsidize the cost of erecting and furnishing prefabricated buildings on hospital grounds for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.