ITIJ 212, Air Ambulance Review, September 2018
Carlos took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his background in the industry, and to highlight the many operational and medical challenges that come from operating in Latin America
How did you first get started in aeromedicine?
I was a paramedic working as the Operations Manager for a ground ambulance company in Guadalajara, Mexico. Richard Williams, who at the time was the owner of Air Evac International in San Diego, US, visited the company to market his services. Shortly thereafter, I started referring patients to Air Evac, and eventually got a job with Air Evac International.
How did your career progress to your current role as CEO of Jet Rescue?
Very early in my career I was placed in leadership roles. For example, at the age of 19, I was the Paramedic Lead Supervisor for former Mexican President Miguel De La Madrid’s paramedic team. Being exposed to very demanding positions that young, plus my desire to succeed financially, led me to own various companies, including Jet Rescue.
What are your main responsibilities as CEO? Can you talk us through a typical day in your role?
In the early days of Jet Rescue, I was mainly an operator. As the company has grown, I have been able to leave most of the operational side of the business to my ops team, although I still directly manage some key clients. Currently, I spend most of my time performing strategic and tactical planning to ensure that Jet Rescue continues to be a key player in the industry, as well as developing alliances and allocating the necessary resources to our staff so they always deliver an uncompromising level of care, meaning that they never have to apologise to one of our clients for not meeting – or exceeding – their expectations. I am also preparing the next generation of Jet Rescue executives so that they can be ready for leadership as I retire.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when performing air ambulance missions in Latin America?
There are many operational and medial challenges when you operate in third-world countries. One of the main challenges we have to overcome is the lack of advanced medical care in most of the region (with the exception of large cities). This lack of availability of high-quality care, combined with the inaccurate information that we receive, means that most of the time our teams have to provide advanced medical interventions on site when they arrive to pick up a patient. The accreditation organisation EURAMI has defined our type of work as programmes that have a ‘delayed primary’ role, i.e. collecting the patient from the nearest landing strip or airport to the point of injury or illness in order to deliver the patient to a primary receiving hospital emergency department (or other acute facility).
Typically, these flights are from remote areas to isolated hospitals. The necessary skill set for our flight medics is therefore similar to that of a HEMS (helicopter emergency medical services) team. Other operational challenges include the fact that most airports in the region are not open 24 hours a day, as well as militarisation in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, which limits our access to airports.
What, in your opinion, are the essential aspects of maintaining positive and productive working relationships with your clients in the insurance and assistance sectors?
To me, the most essential aspect of any relationship is honesty and transparency. Being honest and transparent with our clients builds trust, which is the single most important aspect of any relationship. Another essential aspect is reliability and performance. Jet Rescue is all about trust, reliability, availability and performance.
You also recently became CEO of security service provider Blackwater Global Protection. Have you been able to adapt your expertise as an air ambulance CEO to your new role?
Part of my previous experience has been in the field of law enforcement and military services, so putting all of these skills together has actually been very easy. One thing led to the other in this instance; some of our clients not only needed an air ambulance service out of our region, but they also needed someone on the ground assessing the whole case, giving accurate information, providing security detail, armoured vehicles and on-site intelligence. I see it as a complementary service, since we already had most of the logistics and assets in place. I am very entrepreneurial by nature, so I am always looking at parallel businesses that can complement each other and that no one else is able to provide with excellence.
Can you give an example of a recent operation that posed particular challenges for your organisation?
We recently transported an extremely ill patient out of Cuba. This patient was meant to fly – after the air ambulance leg from Cuba to Miami – on a commercial stretcher from Miami to Europe. Communication with the Cuban hospital and local assistance company, though, was almost impossible. The Cuban medical report stated that the patient was stable. Upon arrival in Cuba, however, our medical team found a patient whose condition was in fact extremely critical. We worked with the patient for almost eight hours to get her stable enough to fly to Miami. The patient was obviously not fit to fly on a commercial stretcher and remained in the ICU in Miami for several days. Eventually, we transported her by air ambulance from Miami to Europe.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Thinking! The fact that this is a very competitive and fast-changing industry poses a great challenge, not only to survive, but also to remain a key valued player. Bringing value to the clients require a lot of creative thinking and I love that. I schedule and spend at least three hours ‘thinking time’ every week.
Also, I love the fact that every single day is different: different challenges, different missions.
Which three people – living or dead – would you invite to a dream dinner party, and why?
Steven Jobs – his creativity, innovation and philosophy are all attributes that I admire very much. He thought differently.
Napoleon – he was able to win battles against superior forces with minimal losses and was beloved by his people, many of whom felt he was invulnerable and could never be defeated. At one time, he had an inferior force, and was fighting two great empires, and defeated them both. We are a small company winning battles against larger and more powerful competitors.
Tony Robins – he has not forgotten his humble roots and uses part of his money to help needy people around the world. Obviously as a life coach he is amazing! n