State won’t fund free medical care in Fukushima

Kyodo

The government will not pay for free medical care to be provided for people aged 18 and younger in Fukushima Prefecture, reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano said Saturday.

Free medical care in the nuclear crisis-hit prefecture would raise issues about the role of the national medical care system, and providing fresh funding would thus be “difficult,” Hirano said in a meeting with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato.

The meeting came after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Sato in November he would consider making medical care free for the prefecture’s youth, one of the requests the governor made in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Sato said the decision is “extremely regrettable” and that he will consider using the prefecture’s money, including compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., to fund free medical care.

There has been some opposition within the Noda administration to providing exceptional funding for medical needs unrelated to the nuclear crisis.

No minutes at 10 meetings

AP

Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada has acknowledged that the government failed to take minutes at 10 meetings last year on the response to the March 11 disasters and nuclear crisis, and called for officials to compile reports on the meetings retroactively.

The missing minutes have turned into a heated political issue, with opposition lawmakers saying they are necessary to provide a transparent record of the government’s decision-making process.

Okada confirmed Friday that the minutes were not fully recorded at the time and called for them to be written up retroactively by the end of February.

Three of the meetings held during the chaotic period had no record at all, not even an agenda, even though one was a government meeting on the nuclear crisis headed by the prime minister.

Okada has set up a panel to investigate the extent of the problem and its cause.

The missing minutes are the latest example of the government’s failure to disclose information during the crisis.

Officials initially denied that any reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant had melted down, and have been accused of playing down the health risks of exposure to radiation.

The government also kept secret a worst-case scenario in which tens of millions of people, including Tokyo residents, might have needed to leave their homes, according to a report obtained recently.

An outside panel investigating the government’s response to the nuclear crisis also has been critical, calling for more transparency in relaying information to the public. “Needless to say, keeping records at these meetings is extremely important,” Okada said. “Each minister should keep that in mind.”

He rejected speculation that the nuclear crisis meetings were intentionally left unrecorded so that no participant would have to assume responsibility for any missteps.

He said the oversights were “unfortunate” developments during the chaotic weeks when the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant rapidly escalated and three reactors suffered meltdowns.

He said that retroactively piecing together the minutes would be possible through notes and recordings kept by officials who attended the meetings.

The public records law requires that minutes or summaries of key government meetings be compiled.