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     Volume 4 Issue 47 | May 20, 2005 |

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Torao Tokuda:

Dr Torao Tokuda

Providing health for Everyone

Syed Waliul Alam

It may appear as a story out of a Bangla movie. On a dark midnight, an eight-year boy was knocking on the door of a doctor's house in a village, begging the doctor to visit his house where his 10-year-old elder brother was fighting for life. "I am sorry," the doctor replied from his comfortable bed. "It is quite impossible. I am not going to visit your house on this dark night. Go back and bring your brother tomorrow."

The boy was almost desperate. With all his strength, he continued to appeal to the doctor to save his elder brother. The furious doctor finally left the comfort of his bed, opened the door and caught hold of the shoulder of the boy, jolting his whole body. He was then rudely pushed to the walk-way and told to go back home. The thwarted boy returned home alone walking into the dark night to the small village of Tokunoshima, a remote island of Japan. The next morning, just before sunrise, the boy's ailing brother died.

That boy is now a senior citizen of Japan, a Dr Torao Tokuda, known to almost all Japanese by a single name. He is the member of the House of Representatives of Japanese Diet for the fourth time. But more importantly, he is the founder president of Japanese heath sector giant Tokushukai Medical Corporation, the largest single Private Sector Medical Service Provider in the world. "I made a vow to be a doctor on the day my beloved brother left me forever. And now, my dream has come true. I have become a doctor," Tokuda said recalling the memory of his boyhood.

His journey into the medical profession and politics was not an easy one. The boy began working hard at his student life to attain the top grades, while, side-by-side helping his parents at home. He got stipends at all levels of his educational life, including at school and university. He at last obtained his MD degree, a mandatory for being a medical professional in Japan. After university, he landed a job at a government hospital with a dream to ensure access for everyone to the optimum healthcare service, one that his brother was deprived of. But, very soon realised that from his position, it was almost impossible to render better services to the people, particularly those who lived in remote islands. Moreover, he had become an object of ridicule for his colleagues as he would stray from the traditional method of medical services and try to help the unfortunate and deprived people.

Tokuda had to finally leave the government job and began a new struggle. He setup a clinic at his own island - Tukunoshima. Those turned out to be difficult days. The poor residents of the small island could pay little for medical services provided by Tokuda. But, the desperate doctor did not back out from his mission to serve them his best. As new faces appeared in his family, increasing the everyday expenditure, Dr Tokuda was compelled to return to the main island. He borrowed some money mortgaging his life, and started his venture again.

Sitting from left--Governor of Bangladesh Bank Dr Salehuddin Ahmed, Founder of Grameen Bank Professor Dr Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Tokushukai Medical Corporation Dr Torao Tokuda, Deputy Managing Director of Grameen Bank Dipal Borua abd Chairman of Dhaka Community Hospital Dr Qamruzzaman

Luck brought smile in his face. He began expanding his services and founded the Tokushukai Medical Corporation (TMC). After 32 years of uncompromising efforts and hard labour, the corporation is now providing medical services through 260 institutions, including 59 hospitals with over 300 beds, 67 clinics, 21 visiting nurse stations, 22 senior citizen health facilities and 91 social welfare facilities. As many as 18,000 employees, including around 8,500 doctors and nurses, are now working at the institutions.

Dr Tokuda says his mission is to build a society where everyone has access to optimum healthcare services. "For realising the mission, we devote ourselves and take effective efforts to improve and expand our services for the entire regional population," he asserted. Tokuda observed that distrust and dissatisfaction with medical facilities are often cited as serious social problems. "As a member of the medical profession, I find this deeply disturbing. But I know we can earn people's confidence if all our medical practitioners reaffirm their determination to serve the patients and local populace first, and adopt a sincere and caring attitude in our work.”

"First of all the patients must be willing to entrust their life and well-being to hospital. We at the TMC firmly believe that healthcare starts with cultivation and earning this kind of trust." Most recently, the TMC has undertaken an initiative to set up at least 200 overseas hospitals across the world. Under the billions-dollar programme a 1,000-bedded hospital in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia has already commenced operations. Besides, many hospitals are under construction in various countries in Asia, East Europe, North America and Africa. Dr Tokuda is planing to establish two 500-bedded hospitals in Bangladesh in cooperation with outstanding economist and founder of world-famous Grameen Bank Professor Dr Muhammad Yunus under the Grameen-Tokushukai Foundation. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has also been signed in this connection.

TMC does not only provide regular medical services. It also stands by the victims of various disasters and sends emergency medical teams. The TMC medical teams rushed to areas hit by the recent tsunami. They provided medical services and supplied medicine to the victims in Indonesia, Sri-Lanka and Thailand. Takuda had visited Bangladesh during the 1988's deluge to see for himself the situation and extended his all out cooperation to the flood victims. "I consider all living being as equal and each life is irreplaceable. The TMC has been decisively meeting the challenges of true healthcare for the people anywhere anytime with no regional differences and by providing compassionate medical services," he added. "Very often, I look through the trail I left behind since my brother left me that day. I think, I could do a little something to keep the vow, I made, and that is my satisfaction," says Tokuda, now in his 70s.

The write-up is based on informal interview with the writer during his recent visit to Japan.
The writer is the Senior Staff Reporter of BSS.


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