Nurse Shortage Is Latest Obstacle for Tokyo Olympic Games

Nurse Shortage Is Latest Obstacle for Tokyo Olympic Games

2021-05-04 12:33:15
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TOKYO – Some nurses in Japan are incensed at a request from the Olympic organizers in Tokyo to send 500 of them to help with the games. They say they have almost reached the breaking point of the coronavirus pandemic.

Olympic officials have said they will need 10,000 medical personnel to man the games, and the request for more nurses comes amid a new spike in the virus with Tokyo and Osaka in a state of emergency.

"Not only did I feel angry, but I was astonished at the insensitivity," Mikito Ikeda, a nurse in Nagoya, central Japan, told the Associated Press. "It shows how human life is viewed lightly."

The call for more nurses is typical of the improvised changes happening almost daily as organizers and the International Olympic Committee try to make the games take place in the midst of a pandemic.

The Olympics will start in just under three months, meaning 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and thousands of other officials, judges, sponsors, media and broadcasters will enter Japan – where the international borders have been virtually sealed for a year.

In a statement from the Japanese Federation of Medical Workers' Unions, Secretary General Susumu Morita said the focus should be on the pandemic, not the Olympics.

"We absolutely must stop the proposal to send those nurses as Olympic volunteers charged with protecting the fight against the severe coronavirus pandemic," said Morita.

"I am extremely furious at the push to pursue the Olympics, despite the risk to the health and lives of patients and nurses."

A protest message stating that nurses were against holding the Olympics recently went viral on Japan's Twitter and was retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

Even before the pandemic, Japanese nurses were overworked and poorly paid compared to their counterparts in the United States or Great Britain.

Nursing is not only physically demanding but emotionally draining, said Ikeda, who has been a nurse for 10 years. He said many nurses are concerned about getting infected themselves, with a vaccination rate in Japan as low as 1-2%.

"It's hard for any hospital to go without even one nurse, and they want 500," Ikeda said. "Why do they think that's even possible?"

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Japan have just passed 10,000.

The British Medical Journal said last month that Japan should "rethink" hosting the Olympics, arguing that "international mass rallies … are still not safe."

Haruo Ozaki, president of the Tokyo Medical Association, has said it will be “extremely difficult” to hold the Olympics because of the new varieties that are spreading.

He also explained that Japan's medical community has been stretched in the treatment of coronavirus patients and also in the rollout of the vaccine.

“We've heard enough of the spiritual argument about wanting the games,” he said. "It is extremely difficult to keep the games without increasing infections both inside and outside Japan."

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga suggested that nurses who have quit their jobs can help with the Olympics, although some layoffs are linked to the stressful work with coronavirus patients.

"I hear that many are taking time off, so it should be possible," Suga said in a widely criticized comment last week.

Athletes will operate in a & # 39; bubble & # 39; at the Olympics, housed in the Athletes' Village on Tokyo Bay and moving in designated buses to venues and training areas. Hundreds of rooms are reportedly also being set up outside the village to accommodate people who fall ill.

Organizers will require daily tests for athletes and other participants, a memorable task for medical personnel. It also contrasts with how little testing is done for the Japanese public.

Polls show that up to 80% of Japanese want the Olympics to be canceled or postponed again. Much of the bill for hosting the Olympics, officially estimated at $ 15.4 billion, is borne by Japanese taxpayers.

"The situation is extremely serious," opposition lawmaker Tomoko Tamura said recently. "Nurses don't know how to take care of this situation. It's physically impossible."

Top photo: The Olympic symbol is being reinstalled after being removed for maintenance prior to the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Odaiba section on Tuesday December 1, 2020 in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko)

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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