Doctors in white coats and blue scrubs sat around a conference room table in June, looking up at a colourful slide projected on the wall.
“How is anyone supposed to memorize this?” a doctor sitting in the back asked as Yoshihiro Masui, the director of Yokohama City Seibu Hospital’s critical care centre, checked the slides.
The presentation, full of colour-coded flow charts, showed dozens of new safety protocols for everything from routine surgeries to dialysis.
Weeks earlier, Seibu had been the site of one of the worst hospital coronavirus outbreaks in Japan, with some 80 people testing positive for COVID-19, including 43 staff members. By the time the hospital contained the spread, 13 elderly patients had died.
For most of May, the 500-bed hospital, in a port city 30km south of Tokyo, had sat empty. After the outbreak, it halted nearly all outpatient services. Doctors and nurses were required to spend two weeks at home, monitoring for symptoms before they could return to work.
Now, as the country emerges from a state of emergency, hospitals like Seibu face the prospect of operating in the shadow of a virus with no treatment or cure.
“We can never have an outbreak again like the one we experienced,” said Masui, an emergency doctor who has been charged with the hospital’s coronavirus response. “What we learned is that this can truly happen anywhere.”