Photo/Illutration Ambulance staff prepare to take a patient with pneumonia to a Yokohama hospital. (Naoko Kawamura)

COVID-19 patients desperately needing hospital attention can expect to face spending hours in an ambulance before staff are able to locate a facility willing to admit the person for treatment, assuming there even is one.

The surge in new cases since mid-July has made it much more difficult to find hospitals willing to take in patients.

In a recent exceptional case, it took 23 hours and 35 minutes to find a hospital able to take in the patient.

For the week of Aug. 9 to 15, the Tokyo Fire Department transported 845 COVID-19 patients to hospitals, a 4.9-fold increase over four weeks earlier.

Of those cases, 461 patients were delivered to a hospital within one to three hours, but it took between three and five hours to find a hospital for 159 patients. It took more than five hours to locate a hospital for 121 patients.

Four weeks earlier, there were no cases of a patient having to wait more than five hours to be transported to a hospital, while there were 52 such cases a week earlier.

Also between Aug. 9 and 15, there were 1,414 cases in which ambulances arrived at a patient’s location, but staff were forced to abandon the effort because no hospitals were available with spare beds.

There were 61 such cases four weeks ago and 959 a week ago.