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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."

(Related link)

The Facebook page of "Takano Byoin o shiensuru kai," or a group to support Takano Hospital:

https://www.facebook.com/savepatientakano/

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