FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

92(Photo/Image: Community Family Physician Medical Workshop, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine, same below)Damage from the tsunami in coastal Iwaki City (March 12, 2011)Preparing to take in patientsOur 3-11March 11, 2011, 2:46 pm. The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami: A great test of our fortitude.A tragedy unfolds before my eyes for which no amount of common sense or guidebooks provide help. I am a victim too. Despite being unable to confirm the safety of friends and family due to the breakdown of all communication networks, throughout Fukushima, senior residents and supervisory doctors trained in medical facilities (such as clinics and small- and mid-sized hospitals) took up their posts the instant the disaster struck, each thinking and acting on their own initiative.Fortunately, although our staff were in the coastal areas that suffered tremendous damage from the tsunami, they were not directly affected by it. Amidst the frequent aftershocks, clueless about the status of neighboring medical facilities, we had to quickly clean up the chaotic mess in the ER. One after another, we took in victims of the tsunami and did nothing but emergency triage (the prioritization of medical attention) and initial treatments. Faced with delays in the provisions of essential utilities and circumstances that prevented sufficient testing and procedures, we could rely only on our diagnostic skills.Even in an area that had few direct impacts, we saw an unusually large number of patients arriving from hospitals that had lost their functionality. We scrambled to secure space for them and laid vinyl sheets down in the hospital lobby. In particular, dealing with the rush of patients from hospitals whose electronic patient record systems had failed was a struggle. Some patients had medical notebooks that we could refer to for administering proper medical treatment. In other cases, however, the name of the disease, and even that of the patient, was unclear. The biggest challenge was caring for patients who were perhaps exposed to radiation, care for which we had no experience. We treated these patients while frantically gathering information on how to do so.A Fukushima that Prioritizes Family Medicine First, why were we physicians from Fukushima Medical University (FMU) caring for patients at medical facilities throughout the prefecture? Standing by at locales throughout the prefecture, had we anticipated this Posted on goo Healthcare [http://health.goo.ne.jp/]Messages from Fukushima Family PhysiciansPeople Cannot Live AloneAtsushi Ishii, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Community and Family MedicineFukushima Medical University School of MedicineFamily physicians were the gear wheels behind the large-scale disaster medical relief. They provided medical support with pride and joy of living and working in the area (May 7, 2011).