Clinics do their best to deal with outages

by Tomoko Otake

Hospitals and clinics scurried Monday to cope with the start of rolling blackouts in the Kanto region.

While some general hospitals are equipped with their own power generators, many clinics chose to close on the assumption that blackouts will prevent doctors from accessing their patients’ computer records.

Dr. Katsura Sugihara, director of Tama Garden Clinic, a pediatric-dermatological clinic in the city of Tama in western Tokyo, said he closed two hours early Monday after learning earlier in the day that area was scheduled to lose power for three hours between 6:20 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“We can only do our best,” Sugihara said, noting that patients with acute symptoms would be referred to general hospitals in the area instead. “I guess it’s inevitable because the need for electricity is greater elsewhere.”

John Wocher, executive vice president at Kameda Medical Center in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, said there had been no interruptions in service at his hospital so far and that he is prepared to accept more patients, including disaster victims.

The hospital has informed the central government and the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, that it can accept disaster victims flown in by helicopter.

Although the medical center is exempt from the scheduled power outages, it has a backup generator and enough stored water to stay in operation, he said. In addition, the hospital’s communication system is reliable because staffers use low-power PHS phones connected to a local network.