The Japanese government recommended hospitalization of patients on dialysis once they tested positive because of their high COVID-19 mortality rate and definite need for periodic dialysis. However, after experiencing the Delta variant surge, strategic changes towards outpatient care for mild or asymptomatic cases, along with strengthening emergency preparedness were needed. Facing the Omicron surge, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government introduced two novel schemes: i) a temporary medical facility with a dialysis center for infected patients on hemodialysis, which started admitting patients on dialysis on January 20, 2022, to provide additional bed capacity and access to hemodialysis and ii) a transportation scheme for patients who need travel to maintenance dialysis facilities from their homes, which was introduced on February 5. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, cooperating with some nephrology experts, announced these schemes and urged local dialysis facilities to change strategies, providing information regarding infection prevention measures and treatments in online seminars on February 3 and 7. Consequently, promoting outpatient care did not lead to an increase in the case fatality ratio (CFR) in patients on dialysis with COVID-19 in Tokyo during the first Omicron surge (January 7 to February 10, 8.2%; February 11 to March 31, 5.5%). Furthermore, after an additional online seminar on July 20, the CFR dramatically declined in the second Omicron surge (July 8 to September 8, 1.2%). Implementation of public health intervention and careful communication with local dialysis facilities were both crucial to the strategic changes. To maintain essential health services, emergency preparedness should be cultivated during regular times.
Keywords: emergency preparedness; maintaining essential health services; policy.
2022, National Center for Global Health and Medicine.