Recently, there has been a sharp rise in ambulance calls in Japan. For the last 10 years, studies show that ambulance dispatches have increased by 20% which accounts to more than 16,000 dispatches per day all over the country. Such increase in ambulance dispatch has been due in part to the increasing statistics of heatstroke victims and to the growing number of elderly calling for emergency help.
The first ambulance service of Japan started operating in 1931 at the Japanese Red Cross Society in Osaka. The revision of the Fire Service Act in 1963 made it possible to provide fire and ambulance services to the citizens of the country. Through the years, the ambulance system of Japan has progressed from ground ambulances to air and water ambulances as well, encompassing areas that are difficult to access. This development in ambulance services was further strengthened through the enactment of the Emergency Life-saving Technicians Act in 1991.
The growing demand of ambulance services and the high statistics of people who have been found to call 119 with minor injuries has become a subject of debate for whether to charge the citizens with basic fees. In 2003, the average response time of an ambulance was six minutes and eighteen seconds. However, due to an increasing demand in 2014, it took seven minutes and 54 seconds on average for an ambulance to arrive on the scene.
In other countries, patients are charged for ambulance services for non-emergency responses. Take New York, USA and Munich, Germany for example, which charge a basic fee of 50,000 yen and 67,000 yen respectively for ambulance responses for minor medical conditions. However, in Japan, citizens have always considered the free ambulance service that the government provides as an important aspect of their safety net to ensure that people should not think twice to call an ambulance. In effect, the probability of worsening the condition of ill people that may be compelled to seek emergency services are avoided.