FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

171chap.IVPatient Relief Activity Records [Essays and Research Publications]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the LineA Disaster Medicine Coordinator’s PerspectiveWhen thinking about providing medical care during a disaster, one needs to consider how to coordinate with medical professionals as per their specialties both inside and outside the disaster areas. It is important to deliberate with government agencies over the type of medical care currently needed in disaster areas and the level of medical care that can be provided. From this viewpoint, FMU has collaborated with the medical rescue group since immediately after the disaster, and has dispatched a number of physicians, including Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) physicians. These physicians were appointed as disaster medical coordinators from Fukushima Prefecture to facilitate the smooth coordination of work.Given below are six important points to consider while transmitting information on disaster medical care:1) Robustness: not breaking down in times of disaster2) Stability: enduring sudden increases in the demand for communication 3) Universality: extensively transmitting accurate information4) Promptness5) Ease of use: anybody can transmit information6) Bidirectional systemsDid the tools used in this past disaster fully meet all these conditions of functionality? Unfortunately, no. A portion of the prefectural government offices were damaged by the earthquake and therefore unusable, so the Disaster Response Headquarters was hastily established in Fukushima Jichi Kaikan adjacent to the prefectural offices. To add to these circumstances, not enough landlines were functional right after the disaster. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) then set up a temporary preferential phone line to secure a connection between FMU and the headquarters; however, the lines in both the hospitals in severely damaged coastal areas and the core hospitals in Fukushima were still unstable.Special Report from Fukushima on the Great East Japan Earthquake: Hope in the Midst of Adversity, Part 2The Role of Transmitting Information in Disaster MedicineSeiichi Takenoshita, Professor and Chair, Organ Regulatory Surgery Department, Fukushima Medical UniversityIn the Same Department: Shotaro Fujita, Yasuhide Kofunato, and Toshihiko FukushimaGastroenterological Surgery, April 2012, Vol. 35 No. 4 (Issue 434, Herusu Publishing)IntroductionSoon after the earthquake, with the failure of all communication systems, even verifying the safety of the physicians in our department was difficult. On the day of the earthquake, our department compiled a mailing list, and we immediately disseminated information from the first disaster response meeting held on the same day at 12 am at Fukushima Medical University (FMU). This mailing list, which included other related hospitals, played a vital role in information sharing. It made possible the sending of information, which FMU gathered as a medical base, to all related facilities. At the same time, we were able to gather information about personal and material damage at each hospital, and the status of their medical care. Anxiety and lack of information on radiation from the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was particularly severe. Nevertheless, this mailing list updated physicians with the latest news, thus facilitating the relief of their anxieties.The physicians of our department, the hospital, and other hospitals had to face the disaster from their respective standpoints. Physicians were dispatched from our department to work with the medical rescue group of the prefecture’s Disaster Response Headquarters, which served as a bridge between the hospital and the prefectural government. These physicians played an important role, as did the young physicians dispatched to medical facilities within 5 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and were forced to evacuate from the expanding evacuation zone with their patients. This article vividly recounts each of their on-the-ground experiences during the disaster.