Consistently Upholding Equality of Life: Key points in Min-Iren’s policy adopted at 2nd Council Meeting of the 40th Term

 On February 16 to 17, National Min-Iren held its 2nd Council Meeting of the 40th Term in Tokyo. Set below are the focal points in the policy adopted by the Council, as told by Min-Iren’s Secretary General Nagase Fumio.

Grasping current situation from the viewpoint of reformers

There are three major points we place emphasis on in the policy adopted by the Council meeting.
First, we must grasp the current situation from the viewpoint of finding a “sign for social change.” At the last year’s General Election, the Liberal Democratic Party, which had long promoted the structural reform and expanded the gap between the rich and the poor and aggravated poverty, secured a “victory” on the surface. In fact, the LDP got 2 million votes less than the votes it secured in the previous general election, in which the party lost heavily. If the Democratic Party, which slipped off from the governing party status, was a “loser”, the LDP should also be called a “loser”.
In this election, as many as 40 million people did not go to the polls and 2 million votes turned out to be invalid. This proved that an increased number of people sought for their way out of the political direction guided by the LDP.
The Japan Restoration Party appeared to have made a great advancement in the number of seats it secured. But we do not believe its policy commanded people’s support. Rather, people were attracted to its catch-phrase, “Decision-making politics” in the hope that the party would make a breakthrough in the general feeling of stagnation caused by difficulties in present life and anxiety for the future, for the content of the party’s “decision” was the same as that of the LDP and the DPJ, such as the revision of the Constitution, increase of the consumption tax, cuts in social security, promotion of nuclear energy, joining the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership deal), deployment of dangerous Osprey aircraft, etc. On all of these issues, this party stands in sharp opposition to people’s wishes.
Politics will not be determined by the intension of the ruling circles only. On the question of the Constitution, we are warned of the two-thirds majority now held by the advocates of constitutional change in the House of Representatives. We must achieve a victory in the House of Councillors Election in July to demonstrate our will to defend the Constitution backed by the broad people’s opinion. We should send Dr. Koike Akira, Min-Iren’s colleague, who commands people’s respect and support beyond differences of political tendency, back to the “parliament hospital” in Nagata-cho, so that he can start treating the Japanese politics again.

Spreading the practice of “health right” and “bridging” work

The second focal point is that we have developed practical activities in promoting the “health right” upheld in the 2012 General Assembly meeting of Min-Iren.
In Nagano, Nagano Min-Iren, inviting organizations and individuals in the prefecture, with whom Min-Iren had had no contact, held the symposium “For Regeneration of Health, Food, Housing and Environment of our Communities”. The symposium was an epoch-making undertaking, where panelists and participants from different standpoints and fields demonstrated good possibility of working in cooperation together in local communities.
Representatives of Aichi, Kyoto, Okinawa and other prefectures reported on their activities to support the evacuees of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident living in their communities, to give consultations on their living and provide health checks. Min-Iren as a national organization has entered into agreement with Futaba Town of Fukushima and is carrying out thyroid check for their citizens under 39 years old.
In Asahikawa City, Hokkaido, Min-Iren’s friends’ society members worked together with hospital staff to lobby the city government in successfully making the prescription charge free for patients applicable to the “Free or Low Charge Medical Care Scheme.” The assistance from the city will start in next fiscal year. This is the second achievement next to Kochi City, encouraging the efforts now made in different communities.
Min-Iren’s effort to utilize the “Free or Low Charge Medical Care Scheme” has attracted attention of the National Council of Welfare Medical Care Institutions, the national body of institutions providing free or low charge medical care. Recently I had a meeting with the officials of this council. They asked me how it had been possible for Min-Iren to rapidly increase the licensed facilities of this scheme and make such medical care available to many patients. In fact, the number of users of this scheme at Min-Iren affiliated institutions has reached 387,889 in 2011. Our effort to implement this scheme has been to translate Min-Iren’s principle, “All life is equal and there should be no discrimination” into reality, so it is nothing special for us. But our staff and kyodo-soshiki (affiliate organizations in communities) members should feel confident in our endeavors, which command attention nationally.
Min-Iren’s activities to defend the health right receive high commendation also internationally. Dr. Hanne T?nnesen, the CEO of the HPH (*) Secretariat said that she was inspired by the joint effort of medical and nursing workers and community people for health promoted by Min-Iren, which has been the goal of the HPH. She suggested that Min-Iren should not make such efforts “secret” but inform the world of them.
(*)HPH: The international network of health promoting hospitals working in communities

Cultivating Min-Iren workers of the next generation

Thirdly, we have a task of cultivating workers who will bear Min-Iren’s movement of the next generation.
In January this year, Ms. Shibata Toyo, a poet, died at the age of 101. She was a patient cared through house visits by a local Min-Iren clinic. Her will to live at home was supported by the clinic’s doctors, nurses and visiting nurses. Now that Japan has become an aging society, not only major hospitals, but the role of mid-and small-scale hospitals, home medical care, medical and nursing staff who are giving direct and daily support to patients and users in the community is becoming more and more important.
Medical and nursing care staff, who are facing people’s life and health on a daily basis can best feel the suffering and pain of the patients as their own, and give support at closest to them. We need to build such workplaces and human resources that can promote the growth of young workers, working jointly with our kyodo-soshiki members.
In the Council meeting, Mr. Utsunomiya Kenji, the candidate of the last Tokyo governor’s election, gave a lecture. In his talk, he pointed out the fact that many people feel their life so detached from the politics. Even among those who answer “yes” to phasing out of nuclear power plants in a survey, there are many shades. Some people are firmly opposed to nuclear power, while others do not care that much. We must explore the possibility of making people feel the real connection between their life and politics, by talking to them in an easy-to-understand way.
In this regard, Min-Iren can capitalize on its merit of having the “field sites.” Min-Iren’s staff workers have direct contact with patients and users every day. We want to strengthen our effort to identify the difficulties each patient/user face, and think and discuss together the root-cause and solution of these difficulties.

Working together with kyodo-soshiki in local communities

On June 7, National Min-Iren will commemorate the 60th anniversary of its founding. Starting our history from the time when people could afford to ask for help of doctors “only when they need a death certificate,” our organization has now been affiliated by nearly 1800 institutions. Working together with 3.6 million members of kyodo-soshiki in local communities, we have developed our organization to promote “communities where people can continue to live with peace of mind.” While learning from our past history, Min-Iren is now calling on our members and affiliates to “Fly high” — to develop further with high-spirit.
Our kyodo-soshiki holds a great possibility of becoming important players in building healthy communities. Their members have a variety of experience and job expertise as teachers, carpenters, tax drivers, farmers, restaurant owners, etc. In this 60th year, making good use of these members’ possibilities, let us vigorously promote the movement to contribute to the society and support one another in local communities, and play the role of a “bridge” in the society where people’s life will shine.