How to...

Manage an emergency medical evacuation

It’s a corporate’s worst nightmare: a business traveller falls seriously ill in a remote location. Read on to find out how one company managed the situation

STEP 1: THE SCENARIO. One of your employees falls ill with a life-threatening condition miles away from home. How would you ensure they receive the urgent medical treatment they need with the clock ticking? This is the exact position one company found itself in recently.

STEP 2: THE BACKGROUND. The company in question, a global biopharmaceutical organisation, often has employees travelling to conduct business all around the world. During one such trip, a traveller developed thrombosis and was admitted to hospital in Belém, Brazil.

The patient was given a 50:50 chance of survival and just 24 hours to receive the specialist treatment she needed before her critical organs failed. With the nearest hospital able to perform the vital surgery 3,000 kilometres away in São Paulo, and national and cultural holidays under way which seriously limited the availability of local public services, it quickly became a life or death situation.

STEP 3: THE SOLUTION. The company called upon the services of its assistance provider, Anvil Group, which sprang into action. It immediately convened a team of security, medical and operational personnel to manage an emergency medical air evacuation and work alongside the patient while she was transported to São Paulo.

The team deployed a bilingual security professional locally to aid the translation process, provide security and emotional support and coordinate movements on the ground. They also arranged for an ambulance and medical crew to transport the patient from the hospital to the airfield; a Learjet 35 air ambulance with a pilot, co-pilot, doctor and nurse to fly the patient from Belém to São Paulo; and an ambulance to transfer the patient from the São Paulo airfield to the receiving hospital.

With the stakes so high, Anvil also engaged a back-up evacuation team to provide support in case of any unforeseen complications with the initial evacuation.

“You can’t always rely on the local infrastructure or standard emergency services to provide the assistance you need in such situations,” says Juliane Kause, Anvil’s Chief Medical Officer, herself an experienced aeromedical physician and a specialist in acute and critical care medicine.

“When time is of the essence, you need the reassurance of knowing that your people are in the hands of experts who’ll keep a cool head, take control and move heaven and earth to achieve the desired outcome,” she says.

STEP 4: THE RESULT. The patient arrived at the destination hospital in São Paulo within 12 hours of Anvil being notified of the case. The prompt and thorough response doubtless helped ensure the patient’s survival. “Cases like these serve as a harsh reminder to companies of what could go wrong without the proper plans in place,” says Kause.

“The company in question here had made the necessary provisions but, all too often, companies assume the worst will never happen to them. And as this case highlights, that could literally mean the difference between life and death.”