Medical workers in Japan are facing severe shortages of protective equipment in their fight against the new coronavirus despite government efforts to increase support, a recent survey showed.
A total of 78 percent said in an online survey conducted last month that there was a shortage, or somewhat of a shortage of necessary medical protective gear, up from 61 percent in the previous poll in March, according to medical information provider K.K. eHealthcare.
The study was conducted between April 16 and 21 on 522 medical doctors across the country and was a follow up to the one in March that saw 817 questioned.
Some 32 percent of midsize or large hospitals with over 100 beds said there was a "severe shortage," while 45 percent of smaller facilities with less than 100 beds said they were in a similar situation.
Among the items in short supply, 75 percent responded to a multiple-choice question that they wanted more medical surgical masks, followed by 71 percent looking for highly protective N95 masks, and 67 percent for disinfectants.
"Regional medical facilities will collapse if the treatment capacity is reduced by the spread of the virus within hospitals," said Tetsuya Matsumoto, professor at the International University of Health and Welfare.
The results come even as the government is providing support for medical facilities treating patients infected with COVID-19.
According to the health ministry, approximately 73 million surgical masks were distributed to around 40,000 medical facilities from March through April, alongside N95 masks, gowns and face shields.
The government has also introduced a system to monitor medical equipment stocks at hospitals in a timelier manner in order to improve distribution efficiency. Under the system, hospitals report their inventory online so the ministry can quickly deliver items in short supply.
"We are providing supplies but have also received reports from medical facilities that there's still a 'shortage,'" a ministry official said. "We will continue to provide support where necessary."