In early June 2021, our alarm centre received a call from an insurance partner requesting an urgent air ambulance evacuation from Kathmandu, Nepal to Seville, Spain. The patient was an adult male suffering from acute mountain sickness, with high-altitude pulmonary oedema and Covid-19 pneumonia. At that time, the third wave of Covid-19 had gripped the Asian Continent. Nepal was a red zone with over 5,000 reported cases per day. Our team was faced with the challenge of repatriating a patient in a dire situation and meeting client expectations in a country where we had not operated before (Nepal). CONNEX had been successfully co-operating with the insurance partner requesting this mission for over seven years. The challenge facing our team was to deliver the quality of service that our client expected in a country where we have limited experience and reaction time.
Teamwork key to success
The operations manager gathered a team of senior co-ordinators to brainstorm possible routes to transport the patient back home to Sevilla. The insurance partner had a special request – to accommodate the insurance company’s doctor onboard the air ambulance flight and to pick up the doctor from Doha, Qatar, en route to Nepal. Given the rapidly changing Covid-19 situation around the world, the team undertook a full review of the restrictions and their impact on foreigners and transit passengers in all countries of the region. During this exercise, no less than 20 contracted air ambulance providers were contacted to identify potential routes for this mission.
It quickly turned out that finding an air ambulance partner to execute the mission was not an easy exercise. A few of them had difficulty accommodating the insurance doctor because of space limitations onboard the aircraft. Our options shrunk further when several of the air ambulance providers were not ready to fly to Nepal, which was considered a Covid-19 red zone at the time. Moreover, landing in Kathmandu – a mountainous area – required specific pilot training and certification that limited the list of air ambulance providers that could perform this mission. The client’s request to pick up the insurance doctor from Doha was quickly eliminated when our team identified that Covid-19 restrictions in Qatar did not allow foreigners into the country, apart from a 24-hour transit at the airport, which was not sufficient for the transfer. Over a period of 48 hours, the team working on the case managed to compare no less than 30 options, combining client demands, Covid-19 restrictions and cost control. The optimal route that our team suggested to the client was to pick up the doctor from Dubai. However, our cost containment experts worked out that it would be more cost efficient to rely on one of our contracted European air ambulance partners to pick up the doctor directly from Madrid and fly him to Kathmandu. Had it not been for the experience of our team and the ability to rapidly leverage our network of experts, work under pressure and identify solutions, this case would not have been a success. As soon as the insurance provider accepted our proposed solution, the air ambulance took-off from Innsbruck, Austria, picked up the insurance doctor from Madrid and flew to Kathmandu after a night stop in Tbilisi, Georgia. After one night spent in Kathmandu, the patient was transferred to the airport under the supervision of the insurance doctor and they took off onboard the air ambulance heading to Seville. After a short technical stop in Tbilisi, the patient landed in his home city, where he received the necessary care and medical attention and recovered from the complications that he contracted during his travels.