Now is the “Time to Change the Society by our Movement”: Key points in the action plan set by the 1st Min-Iren Council Meeting

On August 25 and 26, 2012, national Min-Iren convened the 1st Council Meeting. Min-Iren Secretary General Nagase Fumio talks about the key points set out by the meeting, including important developments in our movement over half a year since the General Assembly meeting held in February and our future agenda.

— During the last 6 months since the General Assembly, many different activities have developed.
Nagase: In the anti-nuclear power campaign, the protest action held every Friday in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence has spread throughout the country, leading to the protest actions in front of local power company offices and railway stations. On July 16, 170,000 people rallied at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, to demand zero nuclear power plants. In protest against the deployment of Ospreys, 100,000 people of Okinawa joined the rally on September 9. This was one of the largest rallies held in Okinawa during the last 40 years since Okinawa was reverted to Japan.
The protest action against the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement) is also held regularly at Prime Minister’s official residence every Tuesday.
As the movement develops further, the clearer people can see the gap between people’s wishes and the real policies taken by the government.

— What are the characteristics of Min-Iren’s activities?
Nagase: The Program of Min-Iren and the General Assembly’s Action Program are very important, providing the “bridge” between our activities to defend human rights and people’s movement I mentioned earlier. In many places in Japan, we have launched activities to respond to the fear held by the nuclear disaster victims on their health, and we have been sending doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other workers to Fukushima.
In conducting the Minamata disease check-ups, the investigation of asbestos exposure and printing industry workers’ bile duct cancer cases and the follow-up survey on living conditions of diabetes patients under 40 years of age, the materialization of the policy has been in progress, which called for finding the cause of ill health from the places of “actual life and work.”

— What is the focus of the movement up to the 2nd Council Meeting to be held in February 2013?
Nagase: First, we emphasize the “growing cooperation among people to protect human life.” On October 6 and 7, national Min-Iren held a symposium in Nagano on “Health, Food, Housing and Environment.” In preparing for this event, we organized dialogues by visiting to more than 60 organizations within Nagano Prefecture. Through the visits, we realized there would be no barrier separating us from other organizations, if we ourselves open up to them and call for joint actions. The prefectural government also gave backing to the event. Learning from the experience in Nagano, we should create waves of activities to protect human life all over Japan.
Secondly, we should further strengthen our campaign for the defense of the right to health. We invite all Min-Iren hospitals and health insurance pharmacies to actively apply for becoming a medical institution to carry out the Free or Low Charge Medical Care Scheme, if they have not done so.
The understanding of the “right to health”, which was discussed a lot in our General Assembly meeting, has now been deepening in the Min-Iren community. Many staff persons identify as their own the work of removing elements from patients standing in the way of their achievement of health. In the Council meeting, one doctor said, “Through Minamata disease check-ups and asbestos exposure cases, we have learned the importance of grasping patient’s life and career history. But looking at the medical records of patients in conducting investigations on bile duct cancer cases, I realized that our efforts are not enough.” There are many patients who themselves are not aware of social elements that can cause their ill health. We must put more emphasis on grasping their life and career history. And further, we must develop the movement for “creating the health of community as a whole.”
Thirdly, we must make Kyodo-soshiki play greater role as indispensable for community people’s life.

— The Activity Exchange Meeting of Min-Iren Kyodo-soshiki held in September in Hanamaki City of Iwate Prefecture was a great success with 1,800 people in attendance.
Nagase: I was overwhelmed to see such a large number of people gathering with a single purpose of “contributing to the happiness of all the people in the society, not of one’s own.” “If we take action, we can bring positive changes” — yes, now is the time. We need to stress the importance of increasing our colleagues, which would be the key for this.
Fourthly, we must emphasize the important role small and medium-sized hospitals should play. With the aging of our society, smaller hospitals are required to play the role of bridging between high-level acute period treatment and the treatment and nursing at local clinics and homes. Min-Iren is independently training young medical doctors, who would be in charge of community medical care. And Min-Iren hospitals do not charge extra for amenity beds. The role of Min-Iren’s smaller scale hospitals to carry out equal medical care and welfare for communities is important. In order to fully play the bridging role between different players in the medical/nursing network, in cooperation with other institutions, each hospital should create a mid/long term strategy.

— The policy adopted by the Council Meeting includes the revision of the “Regeneration Plan of Medical/Nursing System” that Min-Iren announced in 2008.
Nagase: The “Law on the Promotion of Reform of Social Security System”, which was passed at the recent Ordinary Diet Session is to cut down services of social security, abandon the government’ responsibility to look after its nationals and make self-help and mutual-help of the people a fundamental principle of social security system. This would not be able to stop the degeneration of medical and nursing services.
In revising the “Regeneration Plan”, we must firmly base ourselves on the standpoint of “Devising people-oriented medical services and social security system” and try to create a new one, which will contribute to the development of our movement.

— It is said the General Election will be held soon.
Nagase: The focus on the next general election is “defending people’s life.” Refusing to allow the formation of a grand coalition for bad government, we must achieve by people’s effort a government truly reflecting the will of the people.
I urge you to make good use of the leaflets created by Min-Iren and identify which political parties/candidates are saying what, and call on all the people in Japan to cast a vote and change the society by ourselves.
If we can overcome the “conscientious silence and indifference” and create a persistent movement, we can change Japan. This is what I am convinced of.