Importance of continuing health care before emergency hospital evacuation: a fatal case of a hospitalized patient in a hospital within 5 km radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2023 Feb 7;17(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s13256-022-03744-6.


Background: After a disaster, it is essential to maintain the health care supply levels to minimize the health impact on vulnerable populations. During the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, hospitals within a 20 km radius were forced to make an immediate evacuation, causing a wide range of short- and long-term health problems. However, there is limited information on how the disaster disrupted the continuity of health care for hospitalized patients in the acute phase of the disaster.

Case presentation: An 86-year-old Japanese man who needed central venous nutrition, oxygen administration, care to prevent pressure ulcers, skin and suctioning care of the trachea, and full assistance in the basic activities of daily living had been admitted to a hospital within 5 km radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and experienced Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. After the accident, the hospital faced a manpower shortage associated with hospital evacuation, environmental changes caused by infrastructure and medical supply disruptions, and the difficulty of evacuating seriously ill patients. As a result, antibiotics and suction care for aspiration pneumonia could not be appropriately provided to the patient due to lack of caregivers and infrastructure shortages. The patient died before his evacuation was initiated, in the process of hospital evacuation.

Conclusions: This case illustrates that decline in health care supply levels to hospitalized patients before evacuation during the acute phase of a radiation-released disaster may lead to patient fatalities. It is important to maintain the health care supply level even in such situations as the radiation-released disaster; otherwise, patients may experience negative health effects.

Keywords: Delivery of Health Care; Disaster medicine; Emergency preparedness; Fukushima nuclear accident; Hospital evacuation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Fukushima Nuclear Accident*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Nuclear Power Plants
  • Radius