Wing to Wing Medical Repatriation Services in the Height of COVID-19 Pandemic: From Tanzania To South Korea
  • June 10, 2021
  • |Blog
  • 0

Our medical team received a call in early June 2021 requesting assistance with the repatriation of a patient from Tanzania to his hometown in South Korea.

The patient had been admitted to a hospital in Dar-es-Salaam, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and his condition had deteriorated after several days in the hospital necessitating his repatriation to his native country. After communicating effectively with the hospital about the patient’s condition, the medical team agreed that is was best to transfer the patient in one of our long haul aircraft the Citation C560 XLS.

However, this aircraft was not immediately available due to other missions and therefore the team decided to work with one of our international partners from the Middle East to carry out a wing to wing operation. This would entail the use of our Citation C550 Bravo for the first leg of the flight before handing over the patient to the partner operator.

Wing-to-wing patient transfer entails the patient being picked up by one air ambulance service provider, flown to a suitable rendezvous point handed over to a second air ambulance provider who completes the remainder of the journey to destination. This type of operation is useful where the distance flown is long typically intercontinental and where the patient transfer cannot wait for availability a suitable aircraft. It is a delicate operation and needs partners operating with the same international medical and aviation standards.

The Mission

The AMREF Flying Doctors team departed Wilson Airport at 7:00 a.m. on the day of the flight headed for Dar es Salaam airport, where they were to meet with the Tanzanian medical team bringing the patient from the hospital for handover at the airport. On arrival, our team began carrying the necessary processes before receiving the patient. The medical team proceeded to don the personal protective equipment and prepare the patient isolation chamber while the aviation team prepared the operational paperwork necessary for the next sector of flight all the while staying in touch with our Control Center in Nairobi.

As per our protocols, the medical team had received the patient’s case file in advance making it easier and quicker to make appropriate decision regarding what needed to be done specific for this patient for a successful transfer. Additionally, the team verified the patient’s hospital clearances and ensured that all other patient paperwork was in order.

After the hospital team in Tanzania had completed processing the necessary paperwork for patient access to the tarmac where our aircraft was parked, they proceeded to handover the patient to our medical team who immediately started attending to the patient.

During this handover process, the patient’s condition deteriorated requiring our medical team to intubate him on the tarmac and ensure he was well ventilated when put in the portable isolation chamber.  As a result of this deterioration and the subsequent actions to stabilize the patient, it took a few hours before team departed from Dar-es-Salaam at 1300 hours’ local time heading to the rendezvous point in Oman. The first leg of this mission went smoothly our medical team taking precautionary measures during the flight to ensure the patient’s remained stable in-flight while maintaining air-to-ground communication with our Operations and Emergency Control Center OECC.

The aircraft touched down at 2100hrs local time in Oman and found the partner operator ready to receive the patient. A similar process of handover ensued with the medical crew of the partner operator both team ensuring critical information has been passed on and patient is stable and comfortable for the second leg of the mission.

Once the second aircraft was airborne headed for South Korea, our Flight Operations department maintained communication with their counter part of the partner operator relaying both operational and medical briefs to both our client and medical team. The mission was successfully completed as the flight landed safely at destination and the patient handed over to the receiving hospital for treatment.

Attributes to the wing-to-wing mission success

Our operations team is required to maintain constant communication with all parties involved in the mission to ensure its success, and this mission was no exception. The team maintained constant communication with our partners to ensure they were informed of any developments in advance of the team’s arrival in Oman for the handover.

The team also ensured that all clearances required by the team and the patient were attended to prior to activation of the mission. Being a COVID-19 transfer, there was need to also ensure that the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) process for the entire team was addressed in advance.

This wing to wing operation offered the patient a quick response time working with our partners as well as allowing both operators to utilize the available aircraft in their fleet as a suitable solution for the client.

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