Japan to Widen Info-sharing on Medical Facility Damage

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Staffers at a nursing care facility for the elderly carry supplies following a typhoon in Hinode, Tokyo, in October 2019.

The government is planning the nationwide expansion of a currently limited online municipal system that details natural disaster-related damage to nursing care facilities.

Currently, only prefectural governments and local governments of 20 major cities have access to the system. By expanding the program’s scope, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry hopes to establish a framework to facilitate prompt support for senior citizens in the event of earthquakes, typhoons and other natural calamities.

From next fiscal year, the ministry plans to review the current system with an eye on connecting 264,000 establishments across the country, including special care facilities for the elderly. The envisioned project would allow the central and local governments, including 1,741 municipal authorities, to share disaster information related to nursing care.

Under the current system, staff at each facility digitally input information relating to casualty numbers, available supplies and power or water outages, among other information, the ministry said.

Based on these details, local governments then prioritize specific facilities, assess necessary support and relief measures, such as food and diapers, and coordinate the dispatch of necessary personnel.

When Japan was hit by a series of typhoons in autumn 2019, the ministry encountered difficulties in assessing the extent of damage to nursing care facilities.

Learning from this lesson, the ministry in 2021 launched the current system to facilitate information-sharing in the event of a disaster.

The ministry limited the number of municipalities that could access the system to prevent it from becoming overloaded during a potential disaster. However, given that municipalities other than the 20 major cities would still have to place phone calls or request related information from prefectural governments in the event of a disaster, the ministry was urged to review the system’s usage.

The ministry thus plans to modify the current system by the end of the next fiscal year to grant access to all municipalities.

To avoid system glitches due to server overloads, directly affected municipalities will have immediate access to the necessary information during a disaster.

“We hope that municipalities’ use of the system will lead to prompt rescue efforts and local facility support,” said a ministry official in charge.