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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 8 - 14  > Corona crisis casts shadow over nursing-care services
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2020 April 8 - 14 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Corona crisis casts shadow over nursing-care services

April 14, 2020
The spread of coronavirus infections is casting a shadow over community nursing-care services. Care facilities are experiencing extreme anxiety and strains because a single infection among care workers or users could strike a serious blow to the continuation of care services and threaten the survival of facilities.

Hayashi Yasunori, deputy secretary general of the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions (Min-iren), said, "The central government did not include in its 'emergency economic package' any support for the continuation of nursing-care service providers. This surprised us a lot."

The scarcity of hygiene products, including masks and disinfectant solution, add fuels to care workers' worries. Min-iren data show that about 10% of nursing-care offices (Min-iren affiliates) are already out of stock of masks and that about half of the total are running out. According to the same data, there is no positive outlook for securing hygiene goods in 80% of the surveyed.

Most facilities have stopped accepting volunteers, and many care workers who have small children are on leave due to the nationwide school closure. Thus, the remaining workers are bearing heavier workloads that include cleaning, sanitization, and covering the responsibilities of the workers on leave.

Regarding home care services, workers travel from one user's house to another. So, the risk of infection increases for these home helpers. They now make home visits to see the users who stopped coming to day care out of fear of contracting the virus. The number of helpers is insufficient in the first place, so their work burdens are ballooning.

Shopping support by helpers is becoming difficult due to some people's hoarding of daily necessities. Helpers now have to go around to many stores looking for needed items and have to stand in line at the checkout counter and there is no time left for washing and cleaning the house of users.

In fear of being infected with the virus in addition to the stay-at-home request by the government, many users have cancelled their use of nursing-care services. Min-iren said that the number of users dramatically fell in March in 50-60% of its member providers of care services, and these providers will significantly suffer a resultant loss in earnings. For example, revenues from short stays at a special nursing home with 100 beds would fall by three-four million yen a month. On the other hand, operational costs would increase because of the following expenses for compensation for absence of work for workers on leave due to the school closure, the hiring of temporary workers, and the purchase of currently-overpriced masks and hygiene products.

The aforementioned Min-iren official, Hayashi, said, "Many care workers are worried about a possible closedown of their nursing-care services."
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