Our Response to the Disaster in Japan

Friends and colleagues,

Certainly, the current situation in Japan has been weighing heavily on many of our minds. In the wake of the recent devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor incident – the nation’s worst crisis in 65 years – many members of the Health System community have been asking how UMHS will help.

Just over a year ago, we mobilized quickly and admirably to send medical personnel and supplies to Haiti after the nation was destroyed by a 7.0 earthquake. Fortunately, Japan has a much stronger disaster response infrastructure, which includes staff and resources to both identify and care for immediate medical needs.

Additionally, various agencies of the United States government have been deployed to provide relief through the White House and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been designated the official coordinating agency for this response. Other organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross have mobilized to assist, as well.

Based on communications with federal agencies, the Japanese government and physicians in Japan, it appears that immediate medical needs are being met and that a hospital referral system is in place. From what we know, the most pressing needs at this time are non-medical.  We will continue to watch the situation closely and stand at the ready should there be a way that we, as a Health System, can help.

I know that we have an extremely generous and compassionate community here at the UMHS and that some of you may want to go help in the immediate aftermath of this disaster. Please know that the government has issued a warning against travel to Japan because of potential and unknown radiation issues, and that it will take some time for responders and the Japanese government to assess the situation and identify needs. We anticipate that this will be a long-term, ongoing relief effort and we will share new information as it is received.

Because of his incredible work coordinating our response to the Haitian crisis, I have once again asked Tony Denton, executive director of University Hospitals and chief operating officer of UMHHC, to take the lead on keeping us abreast of the situation in Japan and how we might help.

As always, despite the challenges we currently face in our state and country, we can never forget that we belong to a global community.

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