PloS one 2017 05 2512(5) e0178020 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0178020
The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on 11 March 2011 near the northeast coast of the main island, ‘Honshu’, of Japan. It wreaked enormous damage in two main ways: a giant tsunami and an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP). This disaster may have affected the distribution of physicians in the region. Here, we evaluate the effect of the disaster on the distribution of hospital physicians in the three most severely affected prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima).
We obtained individual information about physicians from the Physician Census in 2010 (pre-disaster) and 2012 (post-disaster). We examined geographical distributions of physicians in two ways: (1) municipality-based analysis for demographic evaluation; and (2) hospital-based analysis for geographic evaluation. In each analysis, we calculated the rate of change in physician distributions between pre- and post-disaster years at various distances from the tsunami-affected coast, and from the restricted area due to the FDNPP accident.
The change in all, hospital, and clinic physicians were 0.2%, 0.7%, and -0.7%, respectively. In the municipality-based analysis, after taking account of the decreased population, physician numbers only decreased within the restricted area. In the hospital-based analysis, hospital physician numbers did not decrease at any distance from the tsunami-affected coast. In contrast, there was a 3.3% and 2.3% decrease in hospital physicians 0-25 km and 25-50 km from the restricted area surrounding the FDNPP, respectively. Additionally, decreases were larger and increases were smaller in areas close to the FDNPP than in areas further away.
Our results suggest that the tsunami did not affect the distribution of physicians in the affected regions. However, the FDNPP accident changed physician distribution in areas close to the power plant.