SENDAI – A Tohoku University study says only 8 percent of the Pacific coast hospitals thought to be at risk from the dreaded Nankai Trough earthquake scenario have contingency plans in place to arrange for external assistance.
The survey was sent to 2,898 hospitals, drawing responses from 614.
The findings, released Saturday, come nearly five years after a magnitude-9.0 offshore earthquake spawned giant tsunami that wrecked much of the Tohoku region’s Pacific coastline on March 11, 2011, killing nearly 20,000 people.
The Great East Japan Earthquake damaged some 300 hospitals, or nearly 80 percent of the total in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
While such plans are not legally required, many experts say hospitals need to prepare by drawing up lists of liaisons to contact for extra doctors and supplies, and chains of command and maps of other hospitals and their vicinities.
Of the respondents, 50 hospitals, or 8 percent, said they had plans in place for receiving outside support, with 109, or 18 percent, saying they were preparing to draft one. Some 71 percent, or 438 hospitals, said they had no such plans.
Asked why they have not taken action, many hospitals said they did not know what to decide beforehand.
Among the 125 designated as primary hub facilities for disasters, only 19 percent said they had a Nankai plan in place.
In a multiple-choice question asking where they anticipated support to come from during the feared quake, 51 percent of the hospitals said disaster medical assistance teams, 33 percent said the Self-Defense Forces, and 30 percent said local volunteers.
Only 7 percent had formal agreements with residents in place to secure manpower and supplies for the scenario.
Assistant professor Hiroyuki Sasaki, who conducted the survey, said it is important to use outside help to save lives and ensure hospitals stay functional.
“All hospitals, regardless of their size and specialty, must be prepared,” Sasaki said.
Tohoku University’s International Research Institute of Disaster Science, based in Sendai, contacted 2,898 hospitals in 16 prefectures covered by the scenario revolving around the Nankai Trough, a sea trench stretching from Kanagawa down to Osaka and Hiroshima, from December 2014 to January 2015.
The survey is expected to be discussed at the three-day meeting of the Japanese Association for Disaster Medicine starting Feb. 27 in Yamagata.