Occasionally, we find ourselves managing a case that requires us to extend our scope of work beyond our vast network, which covers 15 countries in the Middle East. This particular case initially seemed to be just one of those cases, until closer investigation, where it turned into a prime example of why a local partner with on-the-ground expertise is key for successful and cost-effective partnerships with insurers.
A young athlete from Trinidad and Tobago with special needs had travelled to a world-renowned sporting event taking place in the UAE to compete on the world stage. He had been competing successfully for a few days when suddenly he experienced an acute asthma attack resulting in a serious chest infection; part of the patient’s disability was that he was already suffering from congenital cystic fibrosis (mainly affecting his lungs), with enlargement of the spleen and liver resulting in the patient being dyspneic and hungry for air.
The CONNEX Assistance UAE office received a call from the tournament’s medical team, requesting assistance to repatriate the patient to the Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago. Our alarm centre immediately contacted the treating hospital to evaluate his medical condition, progress and ability of the athlete to fly home. The treating doctor issued a medical report followed by a fit-to-fly certificate in a regular seat on a commercial flight with a continuous supply of oxygen at 2LPM and a medical escort.
The CONNEX Assistance medical team set out from Dubai to the hospital in Abu Dhabi; a period of a little over one hour by road; meanwhile, our alarm centre sprung into action to find a commercial flight to Port of Spain. With limited flight options, it became clear that a long layover in London could not be avoided, with the Abu Dhabi to London flight arriving in Heathrow, and the London to Port of Spain leg departing from Gatwick the next day.
According to the treating doctor in the local Abu Dhabi hospital where the athlete had already spent a week, the patient needed oxygen support in transport, which meant a road ambulance in the UK and an overnight stay in an ICU bed in hospital. CONNEX Assistance had been able to reach out to facilities in the UK to provide full logistical support, and we submitted pricing and parameters to the patient’s insurer. CONNEX Assistance also applied for an official MEDIF for O2 clearance from the airline, and began to reach out to facilities in Trinidad and Tobago to arrange for hospitalisation on arrival in Port of Spain.
The next step would be for our doctor to make her own medical assessment based on the information provided by the treating doctor. From experience, we know that there are some situations where the patient’s true condition may be different to what is reported to us by the facility, or the medical report of the treating doctor. Our doctors being on the ground make all the difference in providing an accurate report on the condition of the patient, ensuring we can provide assistance in full possession of all the facts of the case, and that the patient is repatriated safely. In this particular case, a doctor assessing the case remotely would have to take the medical report as is, and not take into account progression of the patient as time passes.
On her visit, however, our doctor reported that the condition of the patient did not need hospitalisation in transit in the UK, or indeed on arrival in Port of Spain. In actual fact, by the time of departure, the patient’s condition had progressed to the point where he did not even require oxygen support on the flight.
In light of this, all previous arrangements in the UK were cancelled as the patient was thankfully in good health.
A straightforward conclusion
What initially seemed like quite a challenging case culminated in a more straightforward patient escort by road ambulance in Abu Dhabi, followed by an overnight stay in a hotel in London and a regular transfer from the hotel to Gatwick Airport. The patient was accompanied by an escorting doctor throughout the flight to their final destination, who monitored the patient’s oxygen level during the journey – it was always above 92 per cent.
Having the ability to deploy on-the-ground medical expertise in countries where we provide our services is key to making sure we have all the information for CONNEX Assistance and our clients. This serves as a critical part of our methodology for patient safety and cost control for insurers. And while it took considerable effort to organise logistics in the UK only for the arrangements not to be required, it still adds to our experience, as CONNEX Assistance looks beyond the Middle East to extend its global reach.