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Effect of a blackout in pediatric patients with home medical devices during the 2011 eastern Japan earthquake

      Abstract

      Background: during the eastern Japan earthquake in 2011 and the following prolonged blackout, pediatric patients with home medical devices sought electricity at the pediatric department. We retrospectively studied the effect of this earthquake and the following blackout. Methods: we hand-reviewed pediatric admission records in Tohoku University Hospital for new inpatients attributed to the earthquake from March 11, 2011 to April 12, 2011. A survey by questionnaire regarding the situation during the earthquake was performed for parents of technology-assisted patients. Results: during the study period, 24 pediatric patients were admitted to the pediatric department. Eighteen technology-assisted pediatric patients, including those with home respirators, accounted for 75% of new pediatric admissions. Patients who were admitted for electricity shortage stayed in the hospital for a mean of 11.0 days (3–25 days). The questionnaire survey showed that 55% of technology-assisted patients were admitted to medical centers for evacuation. The majority of patients (89%) with ventilators were eventually admitted to medical centers during the earthquake. Most of the parents of technology-assisted patients experienced a prolonged petrol shortage and difficulty in communications with medical centers. Conclusion: the current study suggests that technology-assisted pediatric patients with neurological disorders as the primary disease can overwhelm the capacity of hospital inpatient facilities in certain situations. Disaster preparedness should consider assuring power requirements in healthcare facilities and preparing backup power generators lasting for at least 24 h for these patients. Preparing alternative measures for emergent electricity and communications could remedy serious conditions during a disaster.

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