Overworked Japan nurses quitting as they face discrimination from neighbours over Covid

Nurses from over 20 per cent of Japanese hospitals handling coronavirus have resigned citing abuse and discrimination - Carl Court /Getty Images AsiaPac 
Nurses from over 20 per cent of Japanese hospitals handling coronavirus have resigned citing abuse and discrimination – Carl Court /Getty Images AsiaPac

Nurses resigned from more than 20 percent of the Japanese hospitals designated to handle coronavirus cases in the first seven months of the pandemic, with the majority leaving due to abuse and discrimination from people around them. 

A study by the Japan Nursing Association has found that nurses across the nation are also leaving the profession due to the excessive demands of work as a result of the pandemic, as well as the risk of infection.

Toshiko Fukui, president of the association, said there is widespread unhappiness among nurses that they are being asked to carry out additional duties, such as changing beds and cleaning wards, at the same time as many financially struggling hospitals have announced that salaries are being reduced and traditional year-end bonuses cancelled entirely. 

But it is the prejudice and aggression that are being aimed at nurses that is of particular concern, Mrs Fukui said, citing a case in which a member of the association was accused of “spreading the infection” when she was outside the hospital where she worked. 

Another nurse wearing protective clothing reported becoming the target of an enraged coronavirus patient who accused her of being “dramatic”. 

“The healthcare field is being pushed to its limits”, Mrs Fukui said. “I would like people to understand that there are cases where thoughtless words serve as a trigger and nursing staff are unable to continue working”.

Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, said many of the nurses that she trains have been the target of unprovoked criticism as they go about their jobs or even when they are with friends or family.

“In the hospitals where I have been working with nurses, they are trying to be positive about their positions, but some of them have been taken ill with the virus and now they are receiving this sort of abuse,” she said. 

“And it goes beyond what is said directly to them; there are cases of schools telling the children of nurses that they can no longer go to classes and husbands of nurses being told by their companies to work from home indefinitely”, she told The Telegraph.

“For many nurses, situations like these are what makes them quit”. 

Mrs Tsukamoto said people are “simply scared of something that is a threat to them, but that they cannot see”, adding that there was similar discrimination against families that were forced to evacuate their communities in northern Japan after the melt-down of reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011. 

Equally, residents of Hiroshima were shunned in the years after the city was the target of the atomic bomb in 1945, due to some vaguely defined fear of contracting an illness related to radiation, Mrs Tsukamoto added. 

“Nurses that I know have come out of hospitals and tried to catch a taxi home, but the drivers go straight past them”, she said. 

“And when I go home, my family always says something about me bringing the virus into the house”, she said. “I know they are joking, but as a healthcare professional it can get a little tiring to hear from your own family every day”. 

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