Medical evacuation


1: You Don't Need to Be at Death's Door to Need Emergency Medical Evac
In places like Laos, Mongolia and many Pacific island nations, even apparently routine problems can lead to emergency evac.

2: Emergency Medical Evacuations Rarely Happen Instantly

The insurers' assistance company, your first point of contact during a medical emergency, needs to balance the patient's needs against the underwriters' desire to control costs. Both underwriters and assistance companies work 24/7 but negotiations do take time.

3: Aircraft Companies Need Money Upfront

No air charter company will send a helicopter, let alone a plane, without a solid “guarantee of payment” in place from your insurers (or cash or credit card if you've been unwise enough to travel without insurance).

4: Logistics Are Insanely Complicated
Even for an emergency helicopter evac within a single country, the nearest helicopter needs to be found, the medical team, equipment and crew need to get to the helicopter, and a flight plan, often including refuelling, needs to be agreed.

5: Most of the Time, the Patient Needs to Be “Fit to Fly”
With most medical evacuations, a medical professional will need to certify that the victim is “fit to fly”: in an emergency mountain rescue situation, the rules are less strict.

6: Most Helicopters Don't Fly at Night

Most helicopters are not allowed to fly at night. So unless an emergency happens early in the day or near the helicopter base, you are likely to have to wait until morning.

7: International Emergency Evacs Take Days
International air ambulances are not designed to rush victims to the nearest hospital. They are intended to transport patients whose condition is stable – be that conscious with a broken leg or in a coma on a ventilator – from one medical facility to another.

8: Air Ambulances Are Not Well-Equipped

Air ambulances are lightly customised private jets, not flying hospitals. They don't have operating theatres, MRI scanners, blood banks or pharmacies and they can't just set down at the nearest airport if something goes wrong.

9: Seriously Injured Patients May End Up in the Nearest Public Trauma Hospital

Because of the “fit to fly” rule, the ultimate treatment option in a developing country may be the best public trauma hospital in the capital. If you survive, once you're stable, you can then be moved internationally for treatment.

10: International Air Ambulances Take Aeons to Arrange

International air evacs are a logistical nightmare. A plane and team needs to be found, and a flight path has to be cleared through at least two, and sometimes several, countries. Medical crew need visas for the country where the patient is, the country where the patient is going and the country where they are meeting the air ambulance.

11: It's Rare for an International Air Ambulance to Leave on Time
Even once the plane is signed off, last minute holdups are legion. Bad weather and customs inspections can delay a flight for hours, as can plain old paranoia, like the air ambulance that left Tel Aviv for Addis Ababa only to sit on the runway for five hours because the Ethiopians decided the patient must be an Israeli spy.







Published by Stuart Lodge