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Second medical helicopter earmarked for Okinawa

Date Posted: 2008-08-22

The central government is planning to give Okinawa a second medical emergencies helicopter to serve the island, but local officials aren’t so sure it’s a good idea.

Okinawa’s Prefecture Welfare Section Director worries “this helicopter will create hard financial difficulties,” noting the current helicopter staffed with a doctor aboard is costing Okinawa over ¥100 million a year, without counting infrastructure maintenance costs of a hangar, heliport and lease charges. The present helicopter has cost ¥56 million to operate the first four months of the fiscal year, causing officials to project an annual price tag of ¥168 million.

Okinawa must pay have the costs, and the prefecture Director says “I don’t think we have enough money to run this second helicopter.” The Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Youichi Masuzoe, says he thinks the second helicopter is needed. He’s suggested money could be made available to operate the helicopter from subsidy money identified for the northern part of Okinawa. Masuzoe says subsidy money will be given to the Yaeyama District, but Okinawa officials say it is “still too much money.”

The initial medical helicopter is assigned to Urasoe City Union Hospital.

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