OPINION

Continuous crime

The crash of an emergency rescue helicopter into the Aegean Sea, the third such aircraft to crash in less than two years, has raised serious questions that must not be indefinitely held back by the usual bureaucratic tentacles. No one, of course, questions the need for a painstaking and thorough investigation, but it would be a grave mistake to use this as an excuse for bypassing the problem. It is common knowledge that many doctors working at island hospitals or health centers view airlifts as an easy solution that enables them to meet the pressing demands of the patients’ relatives and shift their responsibility onto other shoulders. Apart from placing a financial strain on Greece’s national health system (ESY), this irresponsible practice has other negative effects. Unnecessary flights wear out the aircraft and crew, a fact which seems to have caused a surge in the number of accidents. Overuse, however, cannot account for the repeated helicopter accidents. The first crash was attributed to a human error. Inquiry into the second incident also hinted at the same cause – at least until Monday. The fact that all choppers were flown by highly experienced pilots does not sit well with this explanation. People in the know blame Helitalia, the Italian company which currently maintains the helicopters. We do not accept these allegations at face value, but we believe that investigation must also take the charges into serious consideration. It’s no coincidence that the health minister has decided to terminate night flights. Medical airlift helicopters are believed to be all-weather aircraft which are suitable for safe nighttime operations. In practice, however, it has been proved that night flights are extremely unsafe. And this is the black hole in the whole case. Greece’s National First Aid Center (EKAB) has suffered a high toll trying to save human lives. Doctors, medical staff and pilots have responded to emergency calls with self-denial, often braving safety concerns. These days, in which profit and self-interest reign, these people have set an example for professionalism and humanity. The State should have honored them a long time ago. It should at least guarantee them safe flights, to protect them and the State itself from those who place personal gain before everything else.