JMA Disaster Headquarters Status Reports

15:30, March 31, 2011

Food Safety Commission
The Emergency Response Expert Committee in the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission held a meeting on March 30. The committee scrutinized the "Guidelines concerning Restriction of Food and Beverage Intake" relating to radioactive contamination, issued by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) on March 17.

The radioactive contamination of foods and beverages stemming from the earthquake and Japan's response to that contamination is drawing attention from around the world, as there are few examples to learn from internationally or historically. Moreover, this is a problem directly related to people's lives, and so discussion of these guidelines is extremely important.

During the meeting, the JMA gave the opinion that the current guidelines on the radioactive contamination of foods are difficult for the public to understand and end up creating more anxiety and suspicion. The JMA pointed out that the government should provide the public with an explanation that is easier to understand. The current guidelines will be reconsidered as needed.

Press Conference
At a regular press conference held on March 30, the JMA gave a progress report on the actions it has taken thus far in response to the disaster. The report focused on the topics discussed during the teleconference with the prefectures in the Tohoku region and Ibaraki prefecture. The JMA conveyed the situation in each prefecture as far as known, and reporters had questions about the loss of medical institutions in the damage.

On the 24th, the JMA conducted a survey of 11 prefectural medical associations, but the results cannot be aggregated because sufficient information could not be obtained, especially for Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, where damage was severe. The JMA will cooperate with prefectural medical associations and maintain information links with prefectural administrations to tally the damage and take countermeasures. Also, the Miyagi Prefecture website has posted information on medical institutions within the prefecture, including a list of clinics where dialysis and delivery are possible. (in Japanese)

Medical Services under Health Insurance
The Health Insurance Bureau in the MHLW sent another notification regarding providing medical services under health insurance to disaster survivors. Patients can be seen without presenting a health insurance card, and providers are asked to thoroughly cooperate with the deferment or exemption of co-payments. This rule applies to the following people:
(1) residents of disaster-affected areas to which the Disaster Relief Act applies;
(2) persons whose residence was completely or partially destroyed, completely or partially lost to fire, or in a similar circumstance;
(3) persons with no income because the primary income provider has died, was severely injured, is missing, has discontinued or suspended business, or lost employment; and
(4) persons from within the 30-km zone from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Also, there is no need to request a certificate of damage when accepting these patients. Further, evacuation shelters and first aid centers at evacuation centers are not medical institutions but are facilities covered by the Disaster Relief Act, and so expenses can be billed to the prefecture or municipality.

The JMA has created a schedule for each disaster-affected area regarding JMAT support from April forward in order to make support more efficient and sustained. The JMA will consult with prefectural medical associations sending out support in light of the situation in afflicted prefectures.

Claims for Remuneration
Medical institutions authorized to treat patients with health insurance coverage, pharmacies, and home nursing stations that lost their medical records in afflicted prefectures can bill for medical service fees rendered in March 2011 based on an approximate calculation. The office memorandum regarding this issue was sent out by the Health Insurance Bureau in the MHLW on the 29th. The method of calculation and other details have been distributed to prefectural medical associations, so please check these details in writing.

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