Editorial: Japanese hospital ship needed
April 16, 2012
April 16, 2012: Among the countless lessons to be drawn from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 is the need for mobile medical facilities as many of the local hospitals were destroyed by the ensuing tsunami. Roads were also made impassable, leading to a general paralysis of emergency medical services.
That has led to discussion on the need for a multi-purpose disaster response vessel for deployment at disaster sites to provide medical assistance offshore. A number of navies, including the United States, China and Russia, currently field these so-called “hospital ships.” The U.S. version, for example, has 1,000 beds, advanced diagnostic facilities and 12 operating rooms, a full staff of doctors and nurses, and a heliport.
New Komeito was the first political party to recognize the need for a Japanese variant, having established a nonpartisan group of legislators lobbying for a hospital ship in April 2011. The problem, until now, has been the unwillingness of government agencies to cede jurisdiction over the ship.
A breakthrough was achieved in November 2011, when Kentaro Koba, New Komeito’s secretary general of House of Councillor lawmakers, overcame the bureaucratic divides and elicited government agreement to include startup funding for the ship in the third supplementary budget of fiscal 2011.
On April 10, the party formally established an in-house team to assess and evaluate the possibilities for a full-fledged development project; Governor Harumi Takahashi of Hokkaido Prefecture formally approached New Komeito to persuade the government to construct the vessel.
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