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Military sets October 2012 as new hospital start date

Date Posted: 2011-07-14

A new U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa will finally open its doors next fall, more than a dozen years after the facility was given the green light by a Japan-U.S. Spcial Action Committee in 1996.

The five-story hospital is now under construction on Camp Foster, on Prefectural Road 81 behind the Futenma Shrine. Construction on the multi-million dollar facility, which includes a concrete reinforced underground level, began in 2009. “We could not talk about what’s certain” until now, an Okinawa Defense Bureau official explains about why it took so long to decide when the new hospital will open. Some elements of the new hospital will begin operating starting next spring, officials say, as construction wraps up.

The SACO agreed to build the new hospital, bachelor staff quarters, a U.S. Forces hospital depot, a hazardous waste or combustibles depot, a water tank and a heliport, during 1996 negotiations. Neighboring Ginowan City has demanded revisions to the construction plan, citing possible cultural treasures in areas around the hospital.

The current hospital, built more than a half-century ago as a U.S. Army Hospital, is located at Camp Lester, also known as Camp Kuwae. The decision was made years ago to design and build a modern facility at Camp Foster, also called Camp Zukeran, as part of consolidating U.S. installations and handing back land to the Japanese government. The current hospital site and Camp Lester will be returned following the grand opening of the new hospital. Portions of Camp Lester have already been returned to Japanese control.

The U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa has a new commander during this transition period. The former deputy commander of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Pius Irawao, has assumed command from Navy Captain Terry Mooulton, who’s been transferred to the Defense Department’s Navy Medical Affairs Department.

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