In the last issue we learned about AMREF Flying Doctors’ (AFD) air ambulance services, however AFD also extends an array of medical assistance services in Africa to its global clientele. Could you elaborate on the support AFD offers and outline the procedures within AFD operations for handling cases?
AMREF Flying Doctors serves as a vital partner for International Assistance Companies, offering a comprehensive array of services in Africa. These encompass issuing Letters of Guarantee through contractual agreements to ensure payment for medical services, and removing financial obstacles in emergency situations, as well as managing various aspects of medical support, including hospital admissions, ground transportation, medical evaluations, and provides medical escort and air ambulance services. In a nutshell, AFD serves as a one-stop solution for all assistance needs in Africa.
Engaging AFD for case support is straightforward: our 24/7 emergency control centre promptly springs into action upon receiving a support request, providing clients with the necessary assistance – from handling payments to organising evacuations. Ongoing communication keeps assistance partners well informed about the medical progress and associated costs, particularly for extended patient stays, and assures timely management of unexpected situations. AFD also plays a crucial role in coordinating complex cases as well as facilitating urgent repatriation efforts.
In essence, AMREF Flying Doctors' unwavering commitment ensures swift, transparent, and cost-effective medical assistance, with a primary focus on patient well-being and financial security across the African continent.
You mentioned providing commercial airline medical escort services to and from Africa. Have there been notable increases in such transport post-pandemic, and what obstacles do you confront while facilitating patient transfers on commercial flights?
In the aftermath of the pandemic, there has been a noticeable uptake in requests for medical escorts on commercial airlines. AMREF Flying Doctors (AFD), recognising the urgency of a swift response, has taken steps to ensure their medical staff possess the necessary travel visas for these time-sensitive missions.
However, the landscape of these repatriations is anything but straightforward, presenting a range of potential challenges. Some patients, despite not receiving medical clearance for air travel, arrange their own journeys and still seek AFD's assistance. Unforeseen circumstances can also shift a patient's status from being fit for commercial travel to requiring air ambulance transport. To avert such surprises, AFD conducts pre-flight assessments. Despite careful planning, unforeseen issues such as expired visas or incomplete wheelchair arrangements can disrupt operations. While commercial medical escorts usually proceed without issues, unique cases, like escorting a psychiatric patient to the USA with a diversion to Europe, can occur. The surge in requests for commercial escorts is partly driven by cost-saving measures, as assistance companies choose to wait until patients are sufficiently recovered for commercial travel. Despite these complexities, AFD remains a crucial player in ensuring the safe and efficient repatriation of individuals in need of medical support in the air.
Instances involving difficulties with local hospitals, such as issues with payments, invoices, and medical records, are often highlighted. Could you describe AMREF Flying Doctors' mechanisms for addressing these scenarios and explain the advantages of involving a local agent in such situations?
AFD has established effective mechanisms to prevent hospital bill-related issues from impeding patient care and access to services. Through service-level agreements with most service providers, we ensure seamless service delivery for our patients. We also maintain a strong understanding of pricing standards and are proactive in alerting our assistance partners when a hospital's charges exceed reasonable limits.
For smaller facilities that operate on a cash-only basis, particularly outside Kenya, we utilise local agents to facilitate payments on our behalf. AFD maintains a roster of specialised doctors whom we recommend for patient admissions. This approach streamlines the follow-up process for medical reports and invoices. In cases where obtaining a report poses challenges, we conduct bedside assessments and provide real-time reports to our assistance partners.
Our medical director, Dr Lelo, remains closely involved, especially in handling complex and time-sensitive cases. AFD ensures prompt payments to service providers while diligently following up with our assistance partners for reimbursement. Clients can always relax knowing that any enquiries can be entrusted to us for reliable and efficient resolution.
Is there a particular case from your professional journey that still resonates with you? If so, what were the specific challenges you faced during that unique experience?
The most memorable case for me was a complex assistance case that unfolded over the span of two years. It involved a Kenyan individual employed in the United Arab Emirates, and the employer decided that the patient should receive treatment in Nairobi to be close to family. This case exemplified the remarkable teamwork and collaboration between the patient, the AFD team, our assistance partner, the treating hospital and consultants, as well as various service providers like taxi services. Ultimately, the patient made a full recovery and was able to return to his employment abroad. A truly outstanding case, as we normally do not support patients for such an extended period.
There have been numerous similar cases that deeply resonate with me, reinforcing my commitment to lead the exceptional team responsible for our assistance service delivery. After all, it is the patient for whom we do the work that makes AFD stand out as the trusted solution for all assistance support in Africa.