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ASSISTANCE & REPATRIATION REVIEW 2018


CARRY ON ESCORTING


The work of the commercial medical escort involves long hours of travelling, short stops in far-flung locations, and of course caring for patients. But some trips are stranger than others finds James Paul Wallis


If you talk to experienced flight nurses, it doesn’t take long before you start to hear how strange life can be on the road and in the air. Seven Corners, a US- based assistance provider, told ITIJ of one repatriation mission that was over almost before it began. A member had been in hospital for a week recovering from an illness. Te plan was to repatriate him to the US with an escort, and the firm monitored his condition until he was fit to


22 | International Travel & Health Insurance Journal


fly. A representative recalled: “Te member was very excited about his recovery and return home. When our escort arrived at the hospital, the member was happy and talkative, and walked with the escort to the taxi that would take them both to the airport. Te taxi stopped at a traffic light, and without saying a word, the member jumped from the taxi and began running down the road. Te escort wasn’t able to catch up with him!” Sometimes, even the best-laid plans can go awry – what if the customs officers don’t want to play ball? Gavin Bland, who for many years has worked as a medical escort, recalled how he was sent to Delhi for a patient who needed to fly home by stretcher; however, the journey had been


set up as a seated trip: “After assessing the patient, I discussed with the assistance company that he needed to come back by stretcher and they arranged to send a mattress and scoop stretcher out by cargo to Delhi airport – I was asked to collect it on my rest day, being told it should take an hour or so. I arrived at Delhi cargo terminal at 9.00 a.m., but at 5.00 p.m. I was still there, having had multiple bits of paper stamped and examined and sick of my life – at one point, customs had tried to charge 10,000 rupees customs tax on the kit.” He eventually obtained the release papers for the kit – five minutes prior to the cargo area closing – and was told he just needed to pay a few rupees to secure release: “I went to the cashiers’ office to see them shut the doors in


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