Repatriation requires detective work
The SOS International Transport Centre arranges repatriation of sick and injured Nordic travellers and, in this area, usual procedures have been challenged by the corona pandemic. As the world opens up, the Transport Centre handles cases like detectives to ensure a safe repatriation of patients.
Lockdown, changes in travel recommendations and a minimum of air traffic have been among the challenges navigated by the Transport Centre to repatriate patients on behalf of the Nordic insurance companies.
- As the world opened up more over the summer, some things have become easier. But things are still not as they used to be, says Lisa Zorde, Team Leader at the Transport Centre:
- We spend a lot more time on individual repatriations right now. We are not always able to imagine what could happen as the rules can change from day to day. As a consequence of this new reality, we approach the cases and the planning as detectives, say Lisa Zorde.
The timing is crucial
The detective work is undertaken in close collaboration with the local SOS International offices and large networks of foreign suppliers as well as with local authorities, embassies, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, police at airports and more.
Once the Transport Centre has examined the many rules of the individual countries, the next challenge is the timing:
- Fitting together the many requirements with flights and stopovers can be a puzzle and we focus very much on ensuring that everything fits in terms of timing and at a justifiable cost. If e.g. a PCR test can be a maximum of 48 hours old, we try to get our medical escort to travel out and home on the same test, says Lisa Zorde and continues:
- Unfortunately, despite our extensive preparatory work, we experience that some repatriations still "are unsuccessful" and the operation must be completely changed due to e.g. bureaucracy or interpretation of rules at airports.
The Transport Centre also experiences increased case management costs:
- In addition to the fact that case management is more demanding it also becomes more expensive in some cases. For example, there are not very many departures to choose from, says Lisa Zorde.
Few hands on cases
The Transport Centre is organised in a way which means that only a few members are involved in every case. This ensures that there is no loss of knowledge:
- With a few experienced assistance coordinators following each case throughout, we ensure close and ongoing follow-up on rules and requirements, so that patients and their relatives can feel safe throughout the repatriation, says Lisa Zorde.
Examples of new elements in the planning of repatriation
- Requirements for entry, e.g. PCR test, antigen test and how old the tests must be before and after entry/departure. A corona pass is not always enough.
- Requirements for quarantine in countries of entry, e.g. for stopovers
- Test and quarantine requirements at transit airports
- Entry registration and documents, e.g. description of the companions' or patients' purpose of entry
Examples of elements which add to the cost of planning repatriations
- Fewer options for flights/with airlines that e.g. offer more expensive ticket prices
- Multiple stopovers
- Longer travel times
- PCR testing abroad for medical escorts
- PCR testing abroad for patient and relatives