The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for the assistance industry.
Despite air travel being at a historic all-time low and practically the whole world in lockdown, over the last four months Healix International has provided a crucial assistance service to our clients abroad during the pandemic, arranging over 100 medical repatriations and handling almost 5,300 medical helpline calls. And as travel corridors are opened up, the focus on the wellbeing of employees working abroad becomes ever more critical. During the last four months we have utilised our immense network of agents, fixers on the ground and anyone with the potential to assist in getting aircraft into and out of often remote locations, to ensure that those unwell and unable to return home through normal routes have been assisted. COVID-19 has presented new challenges to international medical assistance, such as sourcing testing for patients in some of the most remote locations around the world, securing an isolation pod transfer of positive patients, and securing intensive care admissions around the world during a pandemic. There has also often been delicate negotiation required behind the scenes for diplomatic permits to allow access into a country.
Since mid-March we have been faced with a multifaceted sequence of events that not only changed daily, but pushed us into unknown territory when it comes to repatriation. Borders closed in a domino effect across the world, aircrafts were unable to land to retrieve patients as a result and additional bureaucratic hurdles needed to be jumped. A typical day could comprise repatriation challenges for patients in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, DRC, Somalia and South Sudan. The complexity of each case is so individualised; based on location, nationality and capabilities of the local provider, each case demanding undivided focus and attention that have seen 12-hour days disappear in a flash. Alongside the repatriation team, our medical desk has been working intensively medically managing cases, liaising with medical teams all over the world and working in partnership to try to facilitate repatriation where possible. Where patients were unable to return home for whatever reason, the teams provided long term medical plans to ensure their health and safety whilst waiting for the world to reopen. One thing the pandemic highlighted was that collaboration is crucial. Effective teamwork, a multipronged approach reaching across our provider network, together with diversity and forward thinking, allowed us to repatriate/evacuate patients safely. Our teams are highly experienced individuals and are well versed in delivering a service in challenging circumstances. While the pandemic has brought us new logistical challenges, our clients also had the assurance we are always working within government guidance as well as those of the specific client and country, to ensure the safety and health of all involved.
Preparing for the next phase
Now as we enter the next phase, with lockdown easing in many countries and restrictions reducing on those coming from numerous countries around the world, we are preparing ourselves for a new set of challenges. Businesses cannot operate via virtual conference tools forever; business critical travel needs to resume, and for many, that needs to happen now. However, employee expectations and legislation have drastically changed and organisations across every industry are faced with the difficulty of demonstrating their duty of care obligations to their employees in an incredibly complex operating environment, particularly when it comes to weighing up the risks of international travel. In response we have developed COVID Travel Safe a one-of-a-kind layered risk assessment tool that has been designed to enable business travel within a pandemic, and to provide instant assessments of the medical and logistical risks posed by each and every unique proposed travel itinerary.