Photo/Illutration The Tertiary Emergency Medical Center at the Tokyo Metropolitan Bokutoh Hospital in the capital’s Sumida Ward (Hiroshi Ishizuka)

A hospital designated to treat injured or ill Paralympic-related people rejected a request from the Games organizer to also provide emergency care for serious cases, saying it is already too busy with COVID-19 patients.

“It’s unthinkable to accept such a request when a response at the level of a natural disaster is required to contain the spread of the virus,” said Yuichi Hamabe, who heads the Tertiary Emergency Medical Center of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bokutoh Hospital in the capital’s Sumida Ward.

According to the hospital, it signed an agreement with the Paralympic organizing committee to accept Games-related people, excluding athletes, who are injured or become sick during the event within the framework of general medical services.

The organizing committee on Aug. 12 asked the Tertiary Emergency Medical Center to also take in emergency patients who are severely injured or fall seriously ill at competition venues.

But the center turned down the request because it is a medical institution designated to treat infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and its medical services are already severely strained by the “explosive growth” in novel coronavirus infections.

“The organizing committee made the request just before the Paralympics kick off,” Hamabe said. “That shows it doesn’t think Games can be held safely. Concerned parties should quickly discuss whether to go ahead with the Paralympics.”

Other medical institutions designated to accept injured or ill Paralympic-related people during the Games also said they cannot provide additional emergency services.

A senior official of one such hospital in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area said those medical institutions cannot give special treatment to the Paralympics because they serve as base hospitals in each region and are responsible for providing medical services to local residents.

The organizing committee told The Asahi Shimbun in writing that it is asking designated hospitals to accept patients if medical offices at competition venues cannot deal with the cases.

The organizing committee declined to disclose the names of those medical institutions.

(This article was written by Hiroshi Ishizuka and Yuki Edamatsu.)