Photo/Illutration Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura on April 20 (Yuki Kubota)

OSAKA--The health of a COVID-19 patient recuperating at home suddenly deteriorated and emergency care was needed, but the individual had to wait in an ambulance for seven hours and 23 minutes before receiving hospital treatment.

The case, which occurred in mid-April, is not unique, according to the Osaka prefectural government’s headquarters dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals in Osaka city are being overwhelmed by the rising number of novel coronavirus infections. Available beds for those with serious symptoms are in short supply, and patients, like the one in mid-April, often have nowhere to go.

Between April 16 and 18, 38 emergency calls were made to the Osaka Municipal Fire Department from infected people who were trying to recover at home.

But in 26 of these cases, the patients had to wait in an ambulance for 60 minutes or longer while a public health center scrambled to find available hospitals that could accept them.

A prefectural government official said Osaka city’s health care system is on the verge of collapse. More time is needed for emergency patients to enter hospitals because beds for COVID-19 patients are already filled and emergency staff need to prioritize certain patients.

“Waiting in an ambulance is not what (emergency transport) is supposed to be about,” Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said after an April 20 meeting of the headquarters.

The prefectural government plans to establish a “waiting place” for COVID-19 patients in the city, where they can receive supplemental oxygen until medical staff find a hospital.

Doctors and nurses will be available at the station.

“We will not have enough ambulances to transport other patients if an ambulance has to wait for a long time to transport a (COVID-19 patient),” Yoshimura said.