Japan's Medical Situation Grave in Some Places, But Improving

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Yoshimachi said there are patients with chronic diseases that are getting worse, and many of those patients can't get the medication they need.

Dialysis patients, he said, must head to Tokyo or other parts of Japan because there are more hospitals with the necessary equipment and supplies as well as an adequate supply of clean water.

One doctor from another hospital in Miyagi Prefecture reported that several patients who needed intracranial surgery couldn't get it and instead, were treated mainly by observation. Other hospitals reported performing limited surgeries.

One of the biggest problems, doctors say, is a shortage of fuel.

"It is difficult to go to some areas because of no gas for cars," said Yoshimachi.

Even those who recover from their illnesses or injuries may not be able to go home, because their home was lost. Hospitals for many have become temporary homes.

Radiation Still a Concern

Shiga said he didn't see any patients with illnesses related to radiation exposure because very little radiation leaked in the area where he treated patients.

"Even now, except in Fukushima, I don't think there's been any radiation leakage," he said.

Dr. Yoshito Yamamoto works at Iwaki Kyoritsu General Hospital in Fukushima, about 27 miles from the power plant.

"Both our medical activity and the lives of citizens were seriously limited by the nuclear disaster. We could not walk outside freely, and suddenly the supply of everything including gas, food, water and medications stopped completely," Yamamoto said. Drivers refused to deliver to the hospital.

There are still a lot of medical needs in Fukushima, but many medical personnel are afraid of radiation exposure and are reluctant to assist in the area.

Recovery Slow, But Communities Optimistic

Physicians have expressed their gratitude to their colleagues from other nations who have traveled to Japan to assist in relief efforts. Recovery is slow, but the communities hit by the disaster remain optimistic.

"I saw daily changes of recovery," said Shiga. "We got more medical supplies, and communities are intent on recovering as well."

It will take years of effort and an estimated $309 billion to rebuild, but doctors say the Japanese people are committed to it.

"We Japanese have spirits of cooperation and we will be able to overcome this," said Yoshimachi.

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