IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 117



06 Any Time, Any Place | Creating Worldwide Coverage
Creating Worldwide
Coverage
Fascinating
Fact No. 19
The highest altitude site
supported by International
SOS is in Papua, Indonesia
at 3,900 metres.
As our business developed, more air ambulances
were introduced to create worldwide coverage.
We wanted to be where our clients needed our
capability, rather than just aiming for general
coverage. For example, whilst Papua New Guinea is a
relatively small place, it has complex terrain, highly
changeable weather and very limited medical care.
We have many mining, oil and gas clients there
operating in difficult remote conditions. A rapid
evacuation response can be essential, so we decided
to place an air ambulance there. Dr Neil Nerwich,
who has played a major role in establishing our air
ambulance service coverage, describes New Guinea
Air Rescue as a “vital service which has saved a
number of lives since its establishment.”
Our air ambulances in South Africa and the UAE
are dedicated full time to International SOS and the
others are primarily reserved for us. Although the
vast majority of flights are on our own jets, we also
have access to a range of other aircraft including
executive jets, helicopters and even military and
wide-body aircraft.
These credentialed third-party providers are subject
to a very significant auditing process. Our standards
remain very high. As Ian points out: “Today our air
ambulances are intensive-care units in the sky with
a full range of sophisticated aviation compatible
medical equipment.”
The air ambulance service is closely supported by
our Assistance Centres who keep in touch with
patients and their families. They can map progress of
flights through satellite tracking and speak to those
on board via satellite telephony.
specialists who can secure flight paths and
clearances quickly. They also co-ordinate major
events and mass evacuations.
On average, across the entire operation, we perform
1,600 air ambulance missions per year and fly 12,000
flight hours (eight million km). On any one day we
have an average of four to five flight missions active.
In future, with healthcare standards improving
across the world, there may be less need for
medical transports. Competition is increasing too –
although the standards of some services is
questionable. As Roger says:
“You get what you pay for. Certainly our clients
really appreciate the excellent quality and breadth
of service we provide.”
Air ambulances are for extreme cases. The majority
of patients go on scheduled flights, on stretchers,
or accompanied by a doctor or nurse. Airlines can
be a little reluctant to have sick people on board
and have special rules and procedures set down by
their medical departments. This caused delays and
complications in the past so, in our usual spirit, we
solved the problem by setting up our own travel
agencies to deal with all these arrangements. They are
based in Dubai, Hong Kong, Sydney, Johannesburg,
Paris and Singapore to provide worldwide cover. They
have developed good relationships with the airlines
and know how to smooth the way for sick travellers.
As well as keeping us in control of the whole medical
transportation chain, the travel service also organises
travel for our many staff, thereby providing further
efficiencies and economies of scale.
We have also set up regional aviation desks in
Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Singapore and Philadelphia.
They are staffed with dedicated 24/7 aviation
109

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