February 22, 2020
Tokyo- Japanese doctor Hoei Hayashi has given a detailed account of the struggles of disaster medical assistance team, or DMAT, members aboard the coronavirus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess.
"There was no manual. It was incessant trial and error," said Hayashi, who joined the team during the early stage of Japan's quarantine of the ship at Yokohama, near Tokyo, which began Feb. 5.
"The manpower was far from sufficient, given the size of the ship and the number of people on board," Hayashi said. "The government should create a team of infectious disease specialists to prepare for a crisis."
Hayashi, 51, of Okinawa Prefecture, conducted diagnoses on people aboard who had fever, collected virus screening samples from them and engaged in other medical activities on the ship on Feb. 9 and 10.
"I joined, thinking that somebody has to do it," Hayashi said.
At the time, the ship had 3,600 passengers and crew members aboard, while the onboard medical team had only 40 members, including health ministry quarantine officers, Self-Defense Forces doctors and DMAT members, according to Hayashi.
DMAT members wore protective suits, goggles and high-performance masks. They walked around the ship all day, between the third and 12th floors, to visit those aboard and make diagnoses.
With some passengers not speaking English and some people on board panicking, the work of the medical team was difficult.
The crew was put in a severe situation. "They lived in pairs in small rooms without a window on the third floor of the labyrinth-like ship," Hayashi said.
Most of them were foreigners. "Some grew uneasy after colleagues sharing the rooms developed fever," Hayashi said.
Other DMAT members distributed medicines to passengers. "It took them great care to ensure they would not give wrong medicines, because they sometimes received medicines not requested and some requested medicines were those unavailable in Japan," according to Hayashi.
"I didn't feel the virus was dangerous," Hayashi said. But Hayashi was braced for the possibility of catching the COVID-19 virus as the separation of virus-free and contaminated zones was insufficient.
"The medical team had only one infectious disease specialist, who had little voice and could not exercise leadership sufficiently," Hayashi also said. Jiji Press