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J Nippon Med Sch. 2011;78(6):393-6.

Medical relief activities, medical resourcing, and inpatient evacuation conducted by Nippon Medical School due to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident following the Great East Japan Earthquake 2011.

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Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


On March 11, 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the government declared a nuclear emergency following damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A second hydrogen explosion occurred on March 14 at the plant's No. 3 reactor and injured 11 people. At that time the prime minister urged people living 20 to 30 km from the Daiichi plant to stay indoors. Under these circumstances, many residents of Iwaki City, which was largely outside the 30-km zone, left the city, making it difficult to get supplies to the remaining residents. The only transportation route open for supplies and medical resources was roads, and many drivers feared the rumor that the city was contaminated by radioactive materials and, so, refused to go there. Nippon Medical School (NMS) heard that medical resources were running short at Iwaki Kyoritsu Hospital, which requested water, medications, food, fuel (gasoline), medical support, and the evacuation of 300 inpatients. As a first step, NMS decided to evaluate the situation at the hospital and, on March 16, the director of the NMS Advanced Emergency Center visited the hospital and helped provide triage for about 200 patients. Critically ill patients receiving ventilatory support were given priority for evacuation because they would be most at risk of not being able to evacuate should the Japanese government order an immediate evacuation of the city. We tried to evacuate the inpatients via an official framework, such as the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), but DMAT could not support this mission because this hospital was not within the 30-km evacuation zone. Moreover, the Iwaki City government could not support the evacuation efforts because they were fearful of the rumor that Iwaki was contaminated by radioactive material. Ultimately, we realized that we had to conduct the mission ourselves and, so, contacted our colleagues in the Tokyo metropolitan area to prepare enough hospital beds. We evacuated 15 patients to 8 hospitals over a 5-day period. As a result, we could reduce the number of patients at Iwaki Kyoritsu Hospital, and, thereby, the collapse of medical services in the city was avoided. In retrospect, someone might say the government--either central or local--should ideally have carried out this mission and created a system by which to do it. At the same time, however, to overcome any future bureaucratic issues, we should also prepare private networks, such as those used by NMS, because they can respond flexibly to unexpected large-scale disasters.

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