Sunday, March 20, 2011

Where's the help?

Hospitals where patients must suffer in agony because there are no painkillers? In the world's third largest economy? And where they must go hungry? What's wrong with that picture more than a week after the disaster struck?

Amplify’d from

Sendai hospitals go without painkillers, food

Two surgical operations were underway at Tohoku University Hospital in the city of Sendai on March 11 when Japan's strongest earthquake ever cut off the power. One was stopped and the patient stitched up. The other was completed with inhouse power generation.

In the following days, cancer patients were sent home because there was no medication for their chemotherapy. More than 1,000 patients lived for four days on bread, canned corned beef and dried biscuits, said Mio Onodera, a 25-year-old nurse. There are no painkillers, and intravenous tubes are being reused.

"We are doing things I can't even think of in normal times," Onodera said in a phone interview from Sendai. "The hardest thing is to ask patients to put up with the pain."

At the hospital in this coastal city of about one million, employees who lost family members care for elderly patients with dedication, said Katsutoshi Furukawa, a 50-year-old neurologist. At Suzuki Memorial Hospital nearby, all division heads are sleeping on-site and no one has showered for six days, said nursingdivision chief Katy Yagihashi, 53.

The hospitals of the Sendai region are on the front lines of Japan's worst crisis since the Second World War. As interviews with six medical professionals in the region show, they are being stressed as never before.

Doctors and nurses must treat injured quake victims -though there are few of them -as well as managing their ongoing caseload, scrounging food and water for employees and patients and handling the psychological toll of being 96 kilometres from a possible nuclear meltdown.


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