Case study: Suspected Covid patient in Iraq requiring repatriation

Suspected COVID Evacuation From Iraq
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Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Healix has continued to provide medical and security assistance to those that need it around the world. See how we managed to navigate a complex case and border closures to ensure the successful repatriation of a Covid-19 patient.

As the world entered various states of lockdown in April 2020, we were made aware of a client’s Irish national employee with suspected Covid, deteriorating quickly, requiring urgent evacuation from Iraq.

Restrictions posed challenges and time wasn’t on our side

Around the globe, borders were closing. Air travel had hit a historic all-time low. As a suspected Covid patient, securing entry into a country where the patient was a non-national was going to be challenging. And time was not on our side.

Navigating new challenges

Nearby countries with better standards of medical care had to be ruled out due to local restrictions in place. This left repatriation to Turkey or Ireland – although not ideal due to increased flight time – as the only viable options.

With a multi-faceted approach, our life-saving task began. Our Turkish agent began liaising with the Ministry of Health and Covid hospitals within Istanbul. At the same time, our repatriation team attempted to secure a complex ICU admission in Ireland. This was during the first wave of the pandemic when critical care beds were at capacity.

We had to move within 24 hours to ensure the patient’s best chance of survival

Simultaneously, the team were tasked with finding a suitable aircraft while navigating numerous hurdles. We had to find an air ambulance which could not only acquire landing permits into Iraq, but also have insurances to travel into such warzone, an isolation POD for Covid transfers and availability to move the patient within 24 hours to ensure the patient’s best chance of survival.

Meanwhile, the patient began to deteriorate further and had been intubated and ventilated.  Her red blood count became dangerously low, requiring blood products to maintain her condition. The supply of which could not be guaranteed while she remained in Iraq.


Through persistence and last minute availability from a highly skilled and experienced provider, we secured the appropriate level of transfer to Ireland. We found an accepting hospital who agreed the transfer necessary and were able to allocate a bed.

The decision to repatriate was not taken lightly

The air ambulance provider, Healix and the employer (along with family) were aware of the high risk transfer due to take place. With a Covid repatriation, the essential use of the isolation POD while transferring an unstable, critical care patient increases the complexity of the transfer. Additionally, there is limited space to provide life-saving procedures and effective CPR, if necessary. The decision to repatriate was not taken lightly, but in this case there was no other viable option.

The Covid repatriation took place through the night. Upon landing, the patient was transferred to the ICU via a ground ambulance that was Covid equipped.  Following a successful hand over to the accepting team,  the patient could then receive necessary and lifesaving care she needed.

Covid repatriation outcome

Our demonstration of efficient coordination and focused case management, backed by a strong network of agents and providers, meant that we were able to navigate flight restrictions and limited hospital capacity to ensure the patient received life-saving care at a centre of excellence within just 49 hours of initial notification.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, our aim is to continue to deliver best-in-class, innovative, bespoke care, through having a thorough understanding of risk and the ability to navigate the current global operational landscape. To find out more about our Medical Assistance services, click here.

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