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COVID creates complications for medevac industry


As travel restrictions ease, many are embarking on long-delayed trips to visit family and friends across the globe. Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to present challenges for international travel, including logistical hurdles for those who become seriously ill or injured abroad and require transportation back to their home country.

Before COVID, the majority of these cases would have been handled by undertaking patient transfers with medical escorts on large commercial carriers. Now, new restrictions on commercial flight routings and acceptance of patients on board by airlines may limit the commercial airline options. In these instances, an air ambulance transfer, with specialised equipment and a medical team, can be life-saving.

Regional and continental air ambulance transfers usually take place without complication, but restrictions due to the pandemic may limit access to certain countries and airports for crew rest stops, and local restrictions may not allow COVID-positive patients to disembark.

To reduce response, transfer times and layovers where restrictions are in place, patient transfers may require an air ambulance wing-to-wing transfer. This involves two or more aircraft from partner companies undertaking the transfer and meeting each other at set points along the mission to hand the patient over to the waiting team.

This demands detailed planning from all involved to ensure all elements of the mission are precisely timed and that permits, customs and refuelling among others are arranged. Coordination between all parties continues throughout the mission to ensure success. Universal Air Evac has successfully undertaken a number of these transfers in the past and has an established and trusted partner network in place to ensure the same standards of care and professionalism are upheld at every stage.

In a recent mission that drew on the logistical expertise and experience of the Universal Air Evac team, an extremely complex long-distance mission was undertaken to return a South African who became ill in Central  America while visiting family. A number of options were considered to return the patient home and it was decided that an air ambulance transfer would be the most favorable option taking into accounts the patients needs. By partnering with a local air ambulance operator in South America, Universal Air Evac was able to draw upon their local knowledge, expertise and relationships to ensure mission success. Once activated, within around 24 hours, a logistically complex repatriation was undertaken and the patient was handed over to receive ongoing medical care in Southern Africa.