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Metro Beijing

Beijing's airlift rescue in the air

Updated: 2011-11-15 08:16
By Zheng Xin ( China Daily)

BEIJING - Emergency-response centers in the capital are in talks to improve the coverage of airlift rescue.

Beijing's airlift rescue in the air

A "patient" is brought to a helicopter during an emergency medical drill organized by the 999 Emergency Center and Beijing Capital Airlines on Oct 11. [China Daily]

The 999 Emergency Center and the 120 Emergency Medical Center are both negotiating with Beijing Capital Airlines to provide a helicopter service.

"The helicopters play a significant role in search and rescue," said Li Jianren at the 120 Center. "Considering the medical insurance system and the size of the city, however, it will still take a few years before we have a free airlift rescue."

Apart from the police chopper kept by the city's public security bureau, which is used for large search and rescue operations, the only operations the public can turn to when they need an urgent airlift are commercial companies offering pleasure rides.

At more than 30,000 yuan ($4,700) an hour, the service is not an affordable option for most people. If the emergency centers cut a deal, that is likely to cut the cost, but only slightly.

"We haven't come up with a final price for an airlift rescue, but it will probably be about 20,000 to 25,000 yuan (an hour), much lower than a commercial lease," said Song Liang, a spokesman for Beijing Capital Airlines.

With maintenance fees and salaries for pilots and other personnel, he said the company will not make any profit charging 25,000 yuan an hour. "The helicopters are there. We just want to make full use of them and help more people in need."

The 120 Emergency Center is also talking to the city's public security bureau about putting medical equipment on some of its helicopters, which would go some way toward providing a free airlift service.

"We should make full use of public resources," said Ma Yanming, spokesman of the Beijing Health Bureau, although he added that the biggest obstacle is the lack of comprehensive medical- insurance system.

As no insurance companies cover helicopter rescue, the expensive service is not available to many patients, Ma said.

The health bureau and Beijing Capital Airlines are both in negotiations with insurers to expand their policies to include the cost of airlifts.

Li at the 120 Center said it is important for China to come up with a complete medical-insurance system that makes airlift rescue cheaper.

"Due to the small demand in China, to involve the insurance companies in helicopter rescue will take time," he said. "The flight restrictions enforced within the Third Ring Road also remain an obstacle."