Doctor Helicopter Service Began in Japan After Overseas Countries

The world’s first helicopter emergency service was a system established in 1952 in Switzerland to rescue victims of mountaineering accidents and transport them to hospital. By the way, Australia was the first country with an emergency medical service system using fixed-wing aircraft with a doctor on board. It was established way back in 1928. Then in the 1970s, helicopter emergency services began in Germany and the United States with the aim of reducing the number of traffic accident fatalities. In time, their use widened to the treatment of urgent medical cases and the transportation of patients,and many countries including France, the UK, the Netherlands, and Austria began deploying emergency medical helicopters. In Japan, operations officially began in April 2001. The introduction was triggered by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1995. Since then, the number of prefectures deploying Doctor Helicopters has increased year by year, and as of March 3, 2020, 53 aircraft have been deployed in 44 prefectures across Japan*.

* This includes Kyoto Prefecture, a member of the Union of Kansai Governments which operates Doctor Helicopters.
International Comparison of Helicopter Emergency Services
Year started19721970195219832001
Managing bodyCountyCity & CountyREGASAMUPrefecture
OperatorPrivate helicopter companiesADAC, army, disaster prevention office, private companiesREGA, private companiesPrivate companiesPrivate companies
Medical service crewFN×2、FN+PMDoctor & PMDoctor & PMDoctor & PMDoctor & FN
Flight range150- to 200-km radius50-km radiusEntire country accessible within 15 minEach department (105 departments)Each prefecture
Flight conditionsDay/night, by instrumentDayDay/nightDayDay
Operational chargesPatients (medical insurance)Social insurancePatrons, donations, medical insurance, & patientsNational govt.National & prefectural govt.
Note: “FN” means Flight Nurse and “PM” means Paramedic