Japan weekly hospital transport difficulty cases hit record high

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An ambulance is dispatched in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, Aug 12, 2021.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The number of cases in which ambulance crews struggled to find a place to take emergency patients hit a record high in the week through Sunday, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Tuesday.

The weekly figure jumped to 4,151 from the preceding week’s 2,883, up for the fifth consecutive week and surpassing the previous record of 3,361 cases set in the second week of August last year, when the country was hit by the fifth wave of COVID-19 infections.

Of the weekly total, suspected COVID-19 patients accounted for 1,031, up from the previous week’s 541 and topping 1,000 for the first time since the fifth week of August.

The surge in such hospital transport difficulty cases apparently reflected the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

Another possible reason for the growth is increases in the numbers of accidents during snow removal work and cases in which elderly people choked on “mochi” rice cakes.

“We’re in a tough situation anyway and will continue to pay close attention to the situation,” an official of the agency said.

The agency defines transport difficulty cases as those in which ambulance crew took over 30 minutes from the start of transporting patients to arriving at their destination and making inquiries with at least four hospitals.

The survey covered 52 fire departments in major cities across Japan.