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Death of doctor in Fukushima disaster zone hospital throws patients’ futures into question

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A photo from the website of Takano Hospital shows its building in the town of Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture.

 

A 120-bed hospital in the town of Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture, which has been on the frontline of efforts to restore communities annihilated by the March 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear calamity, has been thrown into crisis following the unexpected death last week of its aging and sole full-time doctor.

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Dr. Hideo Takano, 81-year-old director of the privately run Takano Hospital, died from burns after a fire broke out at his home on the hospital grounds on the night of Dec. 30. The police are investigating the cause of the fire, but it is being treated as an accident.

Hirono Mayor Satoshi Endo told The Japan Times on Friday that the town is doing its best to keep the hospital and its 100 inpatients — about 50 bed-ridden elderly patients and 50 people in its psychiatric ward — alive.

The town plans to pay for the accommodation and transportation costs of volunteer doctors who will fill Takano’s shifts through the end of January. After that, the hospital’s fate is uncertain.

Set up in 1980 originally as a psychiatric hospital some 20 km south of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the facility has played a central role in maintaining the welfare of residents not only in town, but across the Futaba region as the only hospital operating since the nuclear disaster.

The crisis prompted many of the town’s residents and even its government to evacuate. Hirono’s evacuation orders were lifted in September 2011 and residents have been slowly making their way back, but the town’s population — currently about 3,000 — remains less than 60 percent of pre-3/11 levels. The population is expected to climb back to 4,000 by April, Endo said.

In the more than five years since the disaster began, Takano Hospital didn’t close for a single day because the late director decided its frail inpatients could not be evacuated.

Because the other five hospitals in the region shut down, Takano Hospital is the only institution providing medical care not only to its residents, but also to 3,500 or so workers residing there for decontamination and decommissioning work related to the core meltdowns.

Mayor Endo stressed that the hospital needs to survive as it is part of the town’s basic infrastructure and will be necessary if residents are to return.

The hospital has played a huge role in the community by ceaselessly providing care,” Endo said. “If it goes, these patients will have no other place to go.”

Takano, who was a psychiatrist, had been a “super-human” figure, tirelessly tending to the needs of patients despite his advanced age, said Akihiko Ozaki, a 31-year-old surgeon at Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital some 60 km north.

Ozaki is spearheading a drive to save Takano Hospital, and thanks to the efforts of him and others, the hospital has secured about 25 doctors from across the country to work as unpaid volunteers through the end of the month.

But the hospital still urgently needs a permanent full-time doctor to fill Takano’s shoes, Ozaki said.

Technically speaking, a hospital operating without a director is illegal,” Ozaki said. “Patients will suffer, as a system based on various different doctors coming and going is incapable of providing continuous care. We need a new full-time doctor as soon as possible.”

But it will be no easy task to find a replacement, Ozaki said, adding that the hospital was barely afloat under Takano, who worked for little pay and had next to no time off.

Mio Takano, his daughter and head manager of the hospital, said the facility has struggled financially since 3/11. She said government officials have long spurned her calls for help on the grounds that taxpayer money cannot be used by a private hospital.

Takano said that the quake changed everything and that the hospital’s running costs have surged because it needs to hire more staffers to maintain the same quality of care.

Before the quake, many nurses could ask parents or in-laws to take care of their children, she explained. But the disaster forced many families to separate and workers with children can no longer rely on elderly family members, she said, noting that the hospital thus needs to hire more people to work night and weekend shifts.

Such lifestyle changes have meant it is more costly to keep the same level of care,” she said.

Takano added that, nearly six years on, the nuclear disaster is far from over.

This is not a problem of an aging doctor dying in an accident, throwing a hospital into crisis. Situations like ours could happen to any other hospitals in areas that host nuclear power plants.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/06/national/death-full-time-doctor-fukushima-disaster-zone-hospital-throws-patients-futures-question/#.WG_Nglzia-c

 

January 7, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Tragic death in a fire of its only full-time doctor at Hirono, Fukushima hospital. Volunteer doctors sought.

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Hideo Takano, doctor and director of Takano Hospital

Lone doctor who stayed in town after Fukushima crisis dies in fire

HIRONO, Fukushima Prefecture–The tragic death in a fire of its only full-time doctor at a hospital here has dealt another crisis to this tiny community, which is still struggling to rebuild from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Hideo Takano, 81, director of Takano Hospital, died on Dec. 30, threatening the future of the hospital and possibly the community of 2,800 residents.

Hirono Mayor Satoshi Endo on Jan. 3 stepped up his pleas for assistance from the central and prefectural governments.

We would like to prevent the collapse of local medical services,” Endo said at a news conference. “We, as a local government, need to respond to the dedication of Takano.”

Under the law, a private medical facility must have at least one full-time doctor on staff.

Takano’s one-story wooden house, on the same site as the hospital, caught fire on the night of Dec. 30. Police found his body inside the home.

Takano and another doctor at the hospital had treated inpatients as full-time physicians before the triple meltdown in March 2011, which was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 the same year.

The hospital is situated around 20 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It offers the only medical inpatient facility in Futaba county, which, alongside Hirono, includes towns co-hosting the Fukushima No. 1 plant and damaged Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant.

When the town government ordered all its residents to evacuate on March 13, 2011, Takano and many of his staff chose to remain to treat inpatients at the hospital. They deemed it too risky to transport aged and frail patients elsewhere when the entire prefecture was in disarray.

Most of the inpatients at the hospital are senior citizens from Hirono, and many of them were bed-ridden.

Hirono had a population of slightly more than 5,000 before the nuclear disaster. But only a little more than half of the residents have returned to live in the town after the evacuation order was lifted a year later.

As of the end of last December, there were 102 inpatients at Takano Hospital, although the size of the staff shrank to about one-third of the pre-disaster level. Part-time doctors have joined Takano in treating patients after the disaster, but he was the only full-time physician on staff there.

Takano used to say nothing makes him happier than treating patients,” said one of the hospital staff, describing his commitment.

According to the Hirono officials, part-time doctors continued seeing patients at the hospital until Jan. 3 after Takano’s death.

The town managed to secure temporary doctors for the hospital after that date through cooperation from Minami-Soma, a city about 60 km to the north.

Physicians from the municipal Minami-Soma General Hospital also have pitched in and formed a group to assist Takano Hospital. More than 20 doctors have signed up to provide volunteer services, including those from Chiba, Shizuoka and Nagano prefectures.

Although there is a medical clinic in Hirono, some residents say it is not sufficient to meet the health-care needs of residents in the town on its own.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701040034.html

 

Volunteer doctors to be sought for Fukushima hospital after director dies in fire

HIRONO, Fukushima — The body of a man found in a home here after a fire was identified as that of a doctor who continued to treat patients in an area affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, local police announced on Jan. 3. The doctor’s death prompted the local town to seek volunteer doctors from across the country.

Hideo Takano, 81 — who was head of Takano Hospital in the town of Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture — died as a result of the fire which partially burned his home on Dec. 30. The corpse was confirmed to be that of Takano by Futaba Police Station, following DNA testing.

The doctor was particularly noted for his bravery following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant meltdowns in March 2011 — because he decided not to flee, and continued to attend to his patients’ needs at the only hospital close to the power plant, within Futaba county, that remained operational after the accident.

Currently, Takano Hospital treats patients who have returned to the area, as well as people involved in nuclear reactor decommissioning work, but the hospital now faces a staff shortage problem following the death of Dr. Takano, who was the only full-time doctor at the institution.

With this in mind, the Hirono Municipal Government announced on Jan. 3 that it will bring in doctors until Jan. 9 from nearby medical institutions such as Minamisoma City General Hospital, also in Fukushima Prefecture. The doctors will help treat approximately 100 inpatients, in addition to providing outpatient care. Furthermore, a group to support the hospital, called “Takano Byoin o shiensuru kai,” has been set up by voluntary doctors at the hospital, and there have also been appeals on Facebook, asking for support from doctors.

The Hirono Municipal Government plans to recruit volunteer doctors from across Japan — in an attempt to maintain the town’s medical care system — and has offered incentives such as free accommodation and travel. A representative at the town hall stated that, “Takano Hospital patients reside far and wide across Futaba,” and that the town will request support from both the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the central government.

Takano Hospital has set up a commemorative page on its website in memory of Dr. Takano — who devoted his life to medical care in the region — stating that it plans to “carry on the will of Dr. Takano and continue to provide medical care in the region.”

The Facebook page of “Takano Byoin o shiensuru kai,” or a group to support Takano Hospital:

https://www.facebook.com/savepatientakano/

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170104/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

January 4, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Doctor who stayed in Fukushima after meltdowns thought to have died in fire

HIRONO, Fukushima — A doctor who chose to stay in an area affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis and continued to provide medical services may have died in a fire at his home here, police said.

At around 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, a fire broke out at the home of Hideo Takano, 81, director of Takano Hospital in Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture. Part of the wooden structure was destroyed in the blaze, local police said.

The body of a man was found in one of the rooms. Investigators believe the corpse is that of Takano, whom they have been unable to contact, and are trying to confirm the identity of the body.

A security guard at the hospital, located on the same grounds as Takano’s home, noticed smoke coming out of the home and alerted a local fire station. Takano had lived alone at the address.

A hospital official told the Mainichi Shimbun that until recently, Takano had treated patients as usual.

Takano Hospital is situated about 22 kilometers south of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Takano chose to stay home and continued to treat inpatients at his hospital even after the town of Hirono was designated as a zone in which residents were urged to prepare for evacuation following the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. He also examined local residents and those engaged in the decommissioning of the nuclear plant.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161231/p2a/00m/0na/011000c

January 2, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Radioactivity Measuring From Hirono to Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture

 

 

As a result of the measurement of radioactivity from the town of Hirono to the town of Okuma.

Measurements and vido from Tarachine Medical Center, a citizen organized radiation measuring center located in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture.

Credit to tarachine Medical Center

September 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment