Drawing on the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011, which also brought about the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has come up with a proposal and plan to upgrade the hospitals’ medical framework. This will allow them to properly deal with potential disaster emergencies, particularly of the nuclear kind.
Part of this plan is to have the hospitals be capable of treating a large number of patients and designating certain ones to handle treatment of patients with serious radiation exposure. The NRA will be setting up a panel of experts who will work out the details and come up with a comprehensive plan by March of next year. The proposal includes expanding the roles of those hospitals who are currently designated for emergency medical services. The medical personnel will be trained and equipped to conduct radiation contamination checks and also treat those who are suffering from minor cases of exposure.
The country will also be divided into regions to ensure that each of them will have enough designated hospitals that will be able to treat those who have severe cases of radiation. As of the moment, only the National Institute of Radiological Sciences based in Chiba Prefecture and Hiroshima University Hospital are capable of accepting patients that have serious symptoms of exposure to radiation. Other hospitals that will probably be suggested to be equipped with this new upgrade are Hirosaki University Hospital in Aomori Prefecture, Fukui University Hospital and Nagasaki University Hospital.
The current framework, established in 1999 after a critical accident in JCO Co.’s nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokai, was found to have not worked during the Fukushima crisis in 2011 because three of the six designated hospitals for the prefecture were in the emergency evacuation zones. They will try to correct this flaw by focusing on hospitals that are close to the nuclear facilities as well as equipping them to deal with a large number of civilians who can potentially be exposed in light of a nuclear accident.
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