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PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES: more than just your average repatriation


There is a lot more to repatriation than your average air ambulance flight – often, the route or patient has complicated needs that can’t be met with a simple, direct flight. International repatriations can involve commercial aircraft, road ambulances and even ships; cross-border repatriations can take place via train; and air ambulance repatriations can involve wing-to-wing transports.

Each of these modes of repatriation pose their own challenges for assistance providers and the various operators involved. Italian medical escort company DTMedicalService24 has been dealing with medical transport by ground and air ambulance and medical accompaniments on scheduled flights and ships for years. But Covid-19 has changed how they operate in ways they could have never predicted. Davide Toso, Business Development Manager at the company, recalled: “Never have we felt a crisis on this type of work as [we have] in 2020. Covid has drastically stopped us. But we can say, perhaps, that we were the only ones to carry out international repatriations in the lockdown by ambulances and medical flights of Covid patients with biocontainment capsules from Albany to Italy, from Kazakhstan to Italy, from Norway to Italy, from Spain To Italy, and from Italy to France. “In this period, what was normal for us, from the arrival of the request to the departure of the vehicle, was that everything was complicated. It takes several hours – if not days – to obtain transit permits at customs, to see if the person needs a Covid-negative buffer, in short, a lot of bureaucracy to carry out medical transport to help the neediest. Everything can be overcome, but we hope to return to normal soon.” The availability of Covid test kits, as well as the validity of these for the receiving destination, is a key factor that has to be carefully planned for, not to mention the variable response times for receiving test results, which determined how soon a mission could be affected.

Different Covid-19 protocols across borders (and at border control) also have to be ascertained and updated as per various stages of the intensity of the disease, and greatly affected whether a mission could be conducted timeously, or at all.


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