Hiroshima University sets up task force: Radiologists stand ready to assist nuclear-affected sufferers

by Yumi Kanazaki and Kei Kinugawa, Staff Writers

On March 12, in the wake of the first declaration of a state of emergency involving Japanese nuclear power plants following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, Hiroshima University established a task force with Kenji Kamiya, director of the Radiation Emergency Medicine Promotion Center, as chair. The university has indicated that the institution as a whole is prepared to respond to the current nuclear conditions.

In 2004, Hiroshima University was appointed by the Japanese government as the base of “Tertiary Radiation Emergency Medical Institutions” in western Japan, at which people seriously affected by nuclear-related accidents, including nuclear reactor accidents, will receive treatment.

Hiroshima University Hospital in Minami Ward, Hiroshima, can accept four patients who have been severely affected by a nuclear accident and one patient affected to a lesser degree. On the evening of March 12, the university decided to put emergency physicians and radiologists on standby so that the university can respond immediately to patients who may be brought in from stricken areas.

Furthermore, the university requested of six local medical facilities with which it has formed the consortium of “Radiation Emergency Medical Cooperative Institutions” that they should make preparations to accept such patients. The consortium includes the Hiroshima Prefectural Hospital and the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital & Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospital.

On the day, the university sent a medical team trained to handle emergency radiation exposure to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture, the base of such operations in eastern Japan. The team is comprised of seven members, including a doctor, a specialist on radiation measurement, and a nurse. This move is intended to offer cooperation to the institute, which has already dispatched a team of specialists to Fukushima Prefecture.

The seven members of the team from Hiroshima, including Koichi Tanigawa, director of the Advanced Emergency and Critical Care Center of Hiroshima University Hospital, will stand ready, while collecting and analyzing information. When the government requests a dispatch of the team, they will enter the site with a radiation measuring instrument, among other equipment.

The Advanced Emergency and Critical Care Center has a staff of 28. The remaining 21 members will promptly make preparations to accept patients. Dr. Kamiya explained, “We will make all necessary preparations so that we can immediately enter the site and provide medical treatment in the event of emergency.”

(Originally published on March 13, 2011)