Hideo Takano, doctor and director of Takano Hospital
Lone doctor who stayed in town after Fukushima crisis dies in fire
HIRONO, Fukushima Prefecture–The tragic death in a fire of its only full-time doctor at a hospital here has dealt another crisis to this tiny community, which is still struggling to rebuild from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Hideo Takano, 81, director of Takano Hospital, died on Dec. 30, threatening the future of the hospital and possibly the community of 2,800 residents.
Hirono Mayor Satoshi Endo on Jan. 3 stepped up his pleas for assistance from the central and prefectural governments.
“We would like to prevent the collapse of local medical services,” Endo said at a news conference. “We, as a local government, need to respond to the dedication of Takano.”
Under the law, a private medical facility must have at least one full-time doctor on staff.
Takano’s one-story wooden house, on the same site as the hospital, caught fire on the night of Dec. 30. Police found his body inside the home.
Takano and another doctor at the hospital had treated inpatients as full-time physicians before the triple meltdown in March 2011, which was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 the same year.
The hospital is situated around 20 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It offers the only medical inpatient facility in Futaba county, which, alongside Hirono, includes towns co-hosting the Fukushima No. 1 plant and damaged Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant.
When the town government ordered all its residents to evacuate on March 13, 2011, Takano and many of his staff chose to remain to treat inpatients at the hospital. They deemed it too risky to transport aged and frail patients elsewhere when the entire prefecture was in disarray.
Most of the inpatients at the hospital are senior citizens from Hirono, and many of them were bed-ridden.
Hirono had a population of slightly more than 5,000 before the nuclear disaster. But only a little more than half of the residents have returned to live in the town after the evacuation order was lifted a year later.
As of the end of last December, there were 102 inpatients at Takano Hospital, although the size of the staff shrank to about one-third of the pre-disaster level. Part-time doctors have joined Takano in treating patients after the disaster, but he was the only full-time physician on staff there.
“Takano used to say nothing makes him happier than treating patients,” said one of the hospital staff, describing his commitment.
According to the Hirono officials, part-time doctors continued seeing patients at the hospital until Jan. 3 after Takano’s death.
The town managed to secure temporary doctors for the hospital after that date through cooperation from Minami-Soma, a city about 60 km to the north.
Physicians from the municipal Minami-Soma General Hospital also have pitched in and formed a group to assist Takano Hospital. More than 20 doctors have signed up to provide volunteer services, including those from Chiba, Shizuoka and Nagano prefectures.
Although there is a medical clinic in Hirono, some residents say it is not sufficient to meet the health-care needs of residents in the town on its own.
Volunteer doctors to be sought for Fukushima hospital after director dies in fire
HIRONO, Fukushima — The body of a man found in a home here after a fire was identified as that of a doctor who continued to treat patients in an area affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, local police announced on Jan. 3. The doctor’s death prompted the local town to seek volunteer doctors from across the country.
Hideo Takano, 81 — who was head of Takano Hospital in the town of Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture — died as a result of the fire which partially burned his home on Dec. 30. The corpse was confirmed to be that of Takano by Futaba Police Station, following DNA testing.
The doctor was particularly noted for his bravery following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant meltdowns in March 2011 — because he decided not to flee, and continued to attend to his patients’ needs at the only hospital close to the power plant, within Futaba county, that remained operational after the accident.
Currently, Takano Hospital treats patients who have returned to the area, as well as people involved in nuclear reactor decommissioning work, but the hospital now faces a staff shortage problem following the death of Dr. Takano, who was the only full-time doctor at the institution.
With this in mind, the Hirono Municipal Government announced on Jan. 3 that it will bring in doctors until Jan. 9 from nearby medical institutions such as Minamisoma City General Hospital, also in Fukushima Prefecture. The doctors will help treat approximately 100 inpatients, in addition to providing outpatient care. Furthermore, a group to support the hospital, called “Takano Byoin o shiensuru kai,” has been set up by voluntary doctors at the hospital, and there have also been appeals on Facebook, asking for support from doctors.
The Hirono Municipal Government plans to recruit volunteer doctors from across Japan — in an attempt to maintain the town’s medical care system — and has offered incentives such as free accommodation and travel. A representative at the town hall stated that, “Takano Hospital patients reside far and wide across Futaba,” and that the town will request support from both the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the central government.
Takano Hospital has set up a commemorative page on its website in memory of Dr. Takano — who devoted his life to medical care in the region — stating that it plans to “carry on the will of Dr. Takano and continue to provide medical care in the region.”
The Facebook page of “Takano Byoin o shiensuru kai,” or a group to support Takano Hospital: