IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 13

01 Early Days in Asia | Singapore – A Centre of Excellence
Singapore –
A Centre of Excellence
Arnaud and Pascal had a clear vision: To provide an
assistance service throughout Asia, linking emerging
countries with the services available in advanced
countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia,
New Zealand and Japan. Central to this service
delivery was having a deep understanding at the
local level in each country.
At that time companies, especially European ones,
were looking at Asia as a whole rather than as a set
of separate countries. Our service had to reflect this
and be available throughout Asia. Western countries
saw Asia as a continent of both challenges and
opportunities. They were rather nervous of the rapid
development of Japan and aware that China was
beginning to open up. Accessing medical assistance
in the emerging countries was another challenge for
them – for us it was an opportunity.
Singapore was our global headquarters from the
start and from where we launched our expansion into
Southeast Asia. Countries such as Indonesia,
Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries were
using it as a centre of medical excellence. As Arnaud
says, “It was an early example of health tourism.”
As well as being a centre of medical excellence,
Singapore had a positive attitude towards business.
Lee Kuan Yew, the founder and Prime Minister of
Singapore seen as one of the great statesmen of
Asia, had the vision to see that Singapore could be a
platform for the growth to come in Asia. He prepared
his people to adapt to these changes, making English
the working language. On recognising that China
would become the next global power he further
insisted that the Chinese community in Singapore
should drop their dialects and learn Mandarin in
addition to English. Singapore was open for business
– it was the ideal base for AEA.
Left: Employee in Singapore office, 2013.
Once the Jakarta operation was up and running,
Arnaud and Claire moved to Singapore, in June 1985,
just a few weeks before the birth of their first child.
Our location in Singapore was in the American
Hospital in Joo Chiat Place. To complement the set
up in Indonesia, Pascal and Arnaud convinced the
Managing Director of the Hospital, Philippa Wyber,
that the hospital would benefit from hosting AEA’s
Assistance Centre. Affiliating with AEA, and offering
assistance through the hospital’s 24 hour emergency
capability, would bring benefits to all, not least those
in need of assistance.
Philippa Wyber agreed and allocated two patient
rooms to us which were transformed into offices.
Our co-operation with the hospital grew and we
were allocated more space when the hospital built
an extension to house its medical offices. Then on
14 July, 1992 we moved to Odeon Towers. This move
to a fine office block, not far from the Raffles Hotel,
symbolised how much the company was growing.
As well as having excellent hospitals, Singapore was
leading the way in developing medical rescue
capabilities. Arnaud and Pascal spent time creating
contacts and accessing these developments. As part
of this we worked with the Singapore military which
wanted to enhance its medical transport capabilities.
We supported the establishment of a helicopter
company, helped equip it with medical kit and shared
training on how to conduct medical transports. We
were often called to transport Singaporeans, who had
been injured in traffic accidents in Southern Malaysia,
back to Singapore. Some of our medical team were
also trained to be winched down from the helicopter.
We then did this for real when one of our senior
doctors was winched down to a Russian container
ship; he helped airlift a Russian doctor who had
suffered a fall and had concussion and an anterior
brain injury.


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