FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

101chap.IIFukushima Medical University Record of Activities [Notes and Messages]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Linetransported patients who had initially been admitted to the hospital, once their destination was decided. At first, it was decided that they would be transported by a tourist bus, but later, we shuttled them using ambulances that other prefectures had sent as aid. There was shortage of water in our hospital, and so we could not take in dialysis patients; thus, we gathered them into a bus at 4 am on a snowy morning and relocated them to a hospital in Tokyo. It was a scene that hit close to home. From March 14 to 26, we handled a total of 173 patients.[Caring for Patients Exposed to the Nuclear Accident]After this came the third phase, in which we created a system to care for patients exposed to radiation. We measured the radiation levels of those coming into the hospital with dosimeters set up at exits and entrances. Our hospital is now equipped with emergency medical care for patients exposed to radiation.(2) Securing the Nursing Department StaffAs the situation rapidly changed with the passage of time, our nursing objectives and systems also had to change within a short time. We were able to continue providing care with wards closed at the instruction of the nursing department while smoothly changing our work content; however, this placed significant stress on nurses who had to perform tasks that they were not used to. We addressed this situation by having them discuss with the nursing department or the liaison nurses.Our hospital did not lose power but we had no water supply; hence, we worked with water that was stockpiled in tanks. It became necessary for the nursing department to provide security for staff who were able to work. Most of our staff commute by car, but given the insufficient gasoline supply, we authorized the use of taxis. Some areas continued without power, and schools and nursing schools were closed because of water shortage. Thus, there were employees who could not leave their children at home amidst the aftershocks. Consulting with the administrative department, we were able to set up a childcare center at the university despite the short notice. We used a conference room and staffed it with the School of Nursing faculty, nurses, administrative staff, and student volunteers, but later, the hospital’s special needs school was able to staff it for us. Every day, six to eight employees availed of the childcare, and were very happy to do so. Infants were looked after in the hospital’s daycare center.We also addressed employees’ nutrition requirements. The evening immediately after the earthquake, we made rice balls in the School of Nursing and distributed them to hospital employees early on. By the 12th, a substantial amount of rice balls was brought from the school and distributed to everybody in the hospital. In a state where employees could not go shopping and there were not even products to buy, we were able to give them some peace of mind as they could at least avail of food at the hospital. We continued to make rice balls at the Nursing School until the hospital cafeteria was able to supply them.Immediately after the earthquake, physicians from the mind–body medicine department were available to address the staff’s mental health. We also opened the hospital nap room and the dormitories for providing place to sleep for the employees who could not go home or were too scared to be alone.As the state of the nuclear power plant started to change, professors from Nagasaki University conducted three short-term courses about radiation for us, and many employees attended all the classes. I believe it was because of the acquisition of correct knowledge that the staff was able to continue working with a certain level of confidence and composure.(3) Holding a Plenary Emergency Response Meeting with Representatives from All DepartmentsAt 9 pm and midnight of the day of the earthquake, representatives from all departments gathered for a plenary emergency response meeting. Thereafter, it was held twice everyday at 9 am and 3 pm. The meeting was attended by hospital staff and medical school faculty, and we were able to create a sense of coherence among the staff. Each time we would have substantial discussions, gaining opinions from every side about topics such as the current state of affairs, return of essential utilities, information about the nuclear power plant, next steps, issues to be addressed, and areas of concern. Given the dynamic situation, we contributed to the best of our capacity from our respective positions. By filling the meetings with jokes, we prevented the meetings from tending toward negativities or a sense of foreboding. Although this may seem insensitive, the jokes/meetings