IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 107



06 Any Time, Any Place | Our Air Ambulance Service
Our Air
Ambulance Service
Our ‘WORLDWIDE REACH. HUMAN TOUCH.’ is
what makes International SOS special. Over the last
30 years we have created the resources and unique
capability to be able to advise and assist members
wherever they may be and transport them across
any distance and any terrain.
First dedicated air ambulance
(rented Lear 36) early 1990s.
Medical transports by air were part of our
proposition from the earliest days of the company.
These were handled from our headquarters in
Singapore. To start with, we chartered aircraft to
carry out any urgent medical transports. We took
whatever suitable aircraft we could locate and
converted it into a temporary air ambulance. We
were soon able to convert a plane into an air
ambulance within 20 minutes, taking out seats to
make room for a stretcher and adding key medical
equipment. Our very first evacuation was using a
turboprop (a Beechcraft) but we soon became
familiar with many other types of aircraft.
The medical transportation of patients frequently
involved travel to remote and distant locations,
often across international borders. This in itself
made it hard to find suitable aircraft operators.
Medical missions had to be flown by pilots who
really understood the complexities of carrying
seriously ill patients by air. They also had to be
able to fly in and out of remote sites where
conditions might be rudimentary. Plus they had
to obtain flight clearances and landing permits
and deal with other logistics such as refuelling and
the airports’ operating hours. Again, developing the
right network of people was key to the solution.
Patrick Deroose is a good example of us bringing
in the right people at the right time to the fledgling
company. Patrick is Belgian and in 1985 was a nurse
at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Having
heard of him through mutual contacts, Pascal
invited him to help with some medical transports as
his nursing and language skills were much needed.
Although Patrick was working full time, he agreed
to help out. He recalls that some of his early jobs
were on an HS748 which carried fish in the
mornings and was used as an air ambulance in the
afternoons. His wife was not happy with the fishy
smell that returned home with him!
As well as urgent medical transports by air
ambulance, Patrick escorted patients who were
medically stable enough to be transported on
commercial flights, either on stretchers fitted by
the airline, or as seated patients. He also helped
source the medical kits used in the transports and
ingenuity was often needed. He remembers carrying
on board one plane a ventilator which had to be run
on car batteries.
“Connecting it with crocodile clips in an oxygen
rich environment was not ideal, but it worked.
We had to find solutions. You could say there
was never a dull moment!”
99

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