A nurse receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Fujita Health University Hospital in Toyoake, Aichi prefecture, central Japan, on March 8, 2021. Some nurses in Japan are incensed at a request from Tokyo Olympic organizers to have 500 of them dispatched to help out with the games. They say they’re already near the breaking point dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo News via AP)

Tokyo Games need 500 nurses; nurses say needs are elsewhere

TOKYO — Some nurses in Japan are incensed at a request from Tokyo Olympic organizers to have 500 of them dispatched to help out with the games. They say they’re already near the breaking point dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

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

“Beyond feeling anger, I was stunned at the insensitivity,” Mikito Ikeda, a nurse in Nagoya in central Japan, told the Associated Press. “It shows how human life is being taken lightly.”

The appeal for more nurses is typical of the impromptu changes coming almost daily as organizers and the International Olympic Committee try to pull off the games in the midst of a pandemic.

The Olympics are set to open in just under three months, entailing the entry into Japan — where international borders have been virtually sealed for a year — of 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and thousands of other officials, judges, sponsors, media and broadcasters.

In a statement from the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions, secretary general Susumu Morita said the focus should be on the pandemic, not the Olympics.

“We must definitely stop the proposal to send as Olympic volunteers those nurses, tasked with protecting the fight against the serious coronavirus pandemic,” Morita said.

“I am extremely infuriated by the insistence of pursuing the Olympics despite the risk to patients’ and nurses’ health and lives.”

A protest message saying that nurses were opposed to holding the Olympics went viral on Japanese Twitter recently, being retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

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

Nursing is not only physically taxing but also emotionally draining, said Ikeda, who has been a nurse for 10 years. He said many nurses worry about getting infected themselves, with vaccination rates in Japan reported at only 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 last month said that Japan should “reconsider” holding the Olympics, arguing that “international mass gathering events … are still neither safe nor secure.”

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

He also explained that Japan’s medical community has been stretched while treating coronavirus patients and also doing the vaccine rollout.

“We have heard enough of the spiritual argument about wanting the games,” he said. “It is extremely difficult to hold the games without increasing infections, both within and outside Japan.”

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga suggested that nurses who have quit their jobs could help with the Olympics, although some resignations are tied to the stressful work dealing with coronavirus patients.

“I hear many are taking time off, and so it should be possible,” Suga said last week, in a widely criticized remark.

Athletes will operate in a “bubble” at the Olympics, housed in the Athletes’ Village on Tokyo Bay and moved around in designated buses to venues and training areas. Hundreds of rooms are also reportedly being set up outside the village to take in those who fall ill.

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

Public opinion surveys show up to 80% of the Japanese want the Olympics cancelled or postponed again. Much of the bill for holding the Olympics, estimated officially at $15.4 billion, falls on Japanese taxpayers.

“The situation is extremely serious,” opposition lawmaker Tomoko Tamura said recently. “Nurses don’t know how they can possibly take care of this situation. It is physically impossible.”

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read