FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

137chap.IIIStruggle Against RadioactivityFUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Linethey were coming. Anyhow, patients were suddenly transported to the hospital. Under the guidance of emergency department physicians, the students were the primary force behind moving the patients in and around the hospital.We had many student volunteers from the School of Medicine and other schools. Table 2 shows survey results of the volunteer activities of FMU students. A large number of students volunteered in whatever capacity they could. The volunteer activities of FMU students have already been reported by Shiga University, Kagawa University, the Japan Association of Public Universities, the Kyushu Chapter of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA), and other institutions. We are currently working on sharing our experiences with students across the country. (Please refer to Further Reading sections 1, 2, 3, and 10 for more information about the volunteer activities of FMU students and the students’ own volunteering experiences).Importance of Disaster EducationOn September 25, 2010, the FMU emergency department conducted drills assuming that an earthquake had occurred directly beneath Fukushima City. The drills also included the participation of the fire department, Self-Defense Forces, and DMATs. In our simulation, that considered many patients had been transported to the university hospital, we explored locations to conduct triage and establish the DMAT headquarters as well as how to transport patients with the help of the Self-Defense Forces and the fire department. Thus, after the March 11 earthquake, our hospital was able to set itself in motion rather quickly and without large setbacks. This reaffirmed the importance of regularly conducting drills to prepare for the disaster.We have already noted the considerable support and help we received from student volunteers in moving patients. At the time, the only issue we faced was that the student volunteers did not know the best way to move patients from their wheelchairs to the beds or from the floor or beds to their wheelchairs. However, now they have all learned how to do so from their on-the-job training. This brings to our notice that proper transfer and transport of patients was not part of the School of Medicine curriculum. Also, despite being one of the few medical schools in the country to be located in the same prefecture as a nuclear power plant, they had absolutely no hands-on training about radiation exposure. We now plan to establish an Emergency Medicine Research Center in the university hospital through a grant. In addition, to learn from our experiences with this disaster and the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, we must conduct hands-on disaster training in medical and postgraduate schools. Furthermore, such drills must be conducted not only among physicians but also among medical professionals and members of a wider community. We should aim for a Fukushima Prefecture, or at the very least, a Fukushima Medical University, that is resilient to disasters.Radiation Exposure IssuesOne cannot avoid the topic of radiation exposure when discussing the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima. The primary issue after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident is of low-dose, long-term radiation exposure. Radiation exposure can be divided into external and internal exposure (exposure by ingesting radioactive matter while eating). Currently, we know to a certain extent the effects of high-dose external radiation on health from the experiences with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, regarding low-dose, long-term exposure, we can only extrapolate possible health problems from previous findings. Nevertheless, as the extent of external and internal exposure becomes clearer, by logically and rationally considering previous findings, we believe that it will not cause long-term health problems. However, the sentiments of the community toward the issue of radiation are adversely affected by the instinctual fear of radiation and by the fact that without the accident, there would have been no radiation exposure. Fukushima Prefecture has begun the task of conducting a 30-year follow-up health survey of the 2.02 million prefectural residents. This has been initiated to not only protect the health of residents but also leave evidence of the experiences of Fukushima for the future. For residents to have peace of mind, we must act to reliably protect their health, release radiation exposure data, and discover how much risk it poses when compared with other health hazards. Much of the public’s confusion and uneasiness toward radiation probably originates in people misinterpreting the radiation numbers. Thus, it is important to convey the true health effects and relative risk that radiation poses when compared with other hazards.Effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Radiation on Medical Care in FukushimaThe Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing radiation problems have significantly affected Fukushima’s medical care. Compared with national Contribution of Fukushima Medical University and its Orthopedics Department, and the Current State of Fukushima Prefecture