What is Medical Repatriation?

Repatriation is the process where a person is taken back to their home country. Quite often, however, most people require medical repatriation when they get injured or ill and cannot get the medical treatment they need locally. As a result, they have to be flown to the closest suitable medical facility.

Medical Air Service clients are often repatriated to countries without specialist medical care, into countries such as Germany and South Africa, which are well known for their specialist care facilities.

Quick medical repatriation back to the country of origin isn’t limited to receiving high-quality medical care. Emergency repatriation is essential in case the patient’s condition worsens, making them unfit to fly. Thus finding the right facility and sorting out all necessary paperwork as quickly as possible is paramount.

Secondly, it helps patients avoid healthcare debt in cases where patient medical insurance is not accepted in foreign countries. This could result in ballooning medical bills, with most hospitals requiring payment in full before the patient’s release.

Medical Repatriation vs Medical Evacuation

Although these two terms may seem interchangeable, there are key differences. Medical evacuation (or medevac) is the process of transporting a patient to a medical facility since specialist care is not locally available. Medical repatriation, on the other hand, is the process of transporting a patient who is medically fit to fly, back to their home country.

The main options available for medical repatriation are air ambulance flights either through ambulance aircraft, helicopters, or business/first class on a commercial flight.

Repatriation is an unpleasant reality & something that no one ever plans for – a process that we treat with care and professionalism through our qualified team, and our medically equipped fleet.

Challenges During the Medical Repatriation Process

There are a myriad of challenges that face medical repatriation given its global scale. Medical repatriation companies must overcome potential challenges, the biggest of which is the language barrier. Depending on the country, language barriers present a unique challenge.

These issues will often hamper proper communication with physicians and healthcare staff, which could make it harder to set the right level of care. To get around this, Medical Air Service has team members from nine countries who are fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Dutch and four Arabic dialects. This variety makes it possible to communicate with clients all over the world.

Other potential problems include weather conditions, political unrest, and restricted air space. That said, however, the safety of our patients is our top priority at all times. We do thorough due diligence before any medical repatriation flight and work with authorities in the country of repatriation to ensure a safe flight for all our patients.

How We Ensure a Patient is Stable Enough for Medical Repatriation

Before any flight, we liaise with a physician in the hospital where the patient is admitted and carry out a pre-flight medical evaluation. Bedside evaluation is done, and patient records analyzed to ensure patients are medically fit to fly.

For patients who require intensive care, our fleet of ground and air ambulances are fitted with all of the technology & equipment present in your hospital room.

We also travel at higher altitudes than is typical for regular flights for minimal turbulence and a smoother, gentler flight. Additionally, we can adjust cabin pressure which is especially crucial when repatriating patients with certain medical conditions like pneumothorax or anemia.

Finally, qualified medical professionals accompany our patients for careful monitoring, continued treatment during the flight.

How We Pick the Medical Repatriation Facility

Your medical repatriation destination is mostly dependent on factors such as patient condition, stability, and lastly, preference.

We work in tandem with the patient and their family members to pick a hospital for medical repatriation and may make a recommendation based on our experience with various facilities in the country of repatriation. The rule of thumb, however, is to pick the closest point of entry, and the nearest hospital in the patient’s home country, that treats the patient’s condition.

Once a suitable facility is picked, we work with them to ensure they accept the patient, and find alternatives should they not.

Medical emergencies are traumatic for everyone involved; thus, our goal is to shoulder as much of the burden as we possibly can by sorting out all the particulars around the repatriation process.

We take care of all transport options (ground ambulances to or from the airport, air ambulances etc.), getting the right medical personnel, liaising with doctors and hospitals locally and in the country of repatriation, plus sorting out any paperwork involved.

How Much Does Medical Repatriation Cost?

The cost of medical repatriation depends on a plethora of factors such as distance, method of repatriation, patient condition etc. As such, it’s not a one-size-fits-all blanket cost but preferably one that’s customized to each patient’s unique needs. Get in touch for a FREE no-obligation cost.

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