Record 6,307 cases of difficulty transporting patients to hospitals

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An ambulance is seen at a hospital in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday.

The seventh wave of the coronavirus pandemic is straining emergency medical services across the country.

In Tokyo, a number of critical-care patients, including those who have had a stroke, have also tested positive for the coronavirus, fully occupying hospital beds for seriously ill COVID-19 patients at some hospitals.

The number of “difficult cases” in which paramedics have had trouble finding hospitals for emergency patients reached a record 6,307 nationwide for the week July 25-31, up 5% from the previous week, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency announced Tuesday. This tops the 6,064 cases recorded in the third week of February amid the sixth wave of the coronavirus. The sudden spread of the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant has coincided with a heat wave that has brought on heatstrokes in many individuals.

“Difficult cases” are instances in which a patient is turned down by at least three hospitals and the ambulance that carries the individual is made to wait for at least 30 minutes while the paramedics check with hospitals to find an available space. The agency is compiling reports on such cases from 52 fire departments in major cities across the country.

Of the 6,307 difficult cases, patients in 2,789 cases were suspected of being infected with the coronavirus, up 4% from the previous week, another record high. The Tokyo Fire Department recorded 1,076 cases, accounting for nearly 40% of the cases reported from all 52 departments.

“We ask for your understanding, and that you cooperate in using ambulances only when appropriate,” Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yasushi Kaneko said Tuesday at a press conference.