A critically ill or injured patient arriving at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka or its branch health clinics has a major obstacle working against him or her: time.

Yokosuka’s hospital and its clinics are set up to meet the Navy’s basic needs, but for certain levels of critical care, patients are sent to Japanese hospitals. Along the way, traffic can cause a huge delay. The Navy hospital’s new commander has brokered two agreements to get around that.

During his preliminary meet-and-greets with local Japanese hospitals this summer, Capt. Michael J. Krentz — an emergency physician — discovered three Kanto Plain hospitals have medical evacuation, or medevac, helicopters and landing pads, said Capt. Sue Sanders, director of nursing services and health care operations at the Navy hospital.

The hospitals agreed to provide medical evacuations for base personnel in an emergency.

The effect would be impressive — the roughly three-hour drive from Yokosuka to Kameda General Hospital in Chiba, for example, takes only 15 minutes by air.

“That would make a big difference,” Sanders said. “It’s reassuring that we have these services right outside the gate, and we have the ability to transport patients.”

Kameda, Yokohama City University Center in Yokohama and Tokai Medical University Hospital, an hour’s drive from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, each agreed to offer medevacs to Navy medical facilities.

The second agreement, known as “Doc in a Box,” allows Yokosuka City Uwamachi Hospital to send a doctor and medical support personnel along with an ambulance to retrieve patients from the Navy hospital. In a critical emergency, having specialists in the ambulance allows medical help to be administered on the way to the hospital, Sanders said.

So far, neither the medevac nor “Doc in a Box” agreements have had to come into play, Sanders said. But the developing relationship between U.S. Navy and Japanese medical providers can also lead to education exchanges, conferences and other professional development opportunities for both sides, she said.

The relationship is helpful for military patients and medical staff alike, Sanders said.

“[Japanese facilities] have comparable or better services than a lot of our larger facilities back in the States.”

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