Medical repatriation – The different modes of transport


Medical aircraft, commercial flights in business class or stretcher, bed-to-bed transport, discover in this article, the different possible modes of air transport for a medical repatriation.

What is a medical repatriation?

When you are on a business trip or on vacation abroad, you may fall ill or have an accident. In this case, the patient can be repatriated to his or her country of origin for treatment in his or her city of residence.

How is a medical repatriation carried out?

As a general rule, when a patient needs to be repatriated, he/she will contact his/her insurance company, which will organize the medical repatriation

The insurance company will contact partner assistance companies such as West Indies Assistance in the Caribbean basin, which will take care of the repatriation of patients with great reactivity, by studying their medical files and determining with the insurance company, the most suitable mode of transport.

When the patient’s state of health allows it, transport by commercial flight is possible, either in business class or in stretcher for optimal patient comfort and safety.

What is medical air transport?

In the case of medical repatriation, patients requiring follow-up care during transport are taken care of by medical air transport.

The objective of this type of transport is to take the patient or injured person to a care structure adapted to his or her pathology, quickly and in an extremely safe manner.

Medical air transport is possible even for critical patients, under certain conditions.

A medical team specializing in this type of transport is present throughout the repatriation to monitor the patient’s health and provide the necessary care.

The different types of air medical transport

The mode of air transport differs depending on the patient’s health condition.

When his condition allows it, transport by airliner is possible, in business class or stretcher.

Whatever the type of transport chosen, a medical team (emergency doctor, or anaesthetist, nurse anaesthetist, experienced in air medical transport), takes charge of the patient.

The benefits of medical air transport

Medical repatriation using medical air transport has many advantages for patients:

  • the patient benefits from a fast and comfortable flight,
  • the patient is under medical supervision throughout the flight,
  • the patient travels on board a secure aircraft equipped for his care.

Types of air transport used for medical repatriation

Air Ambulance

During an air ambulance flight, the patient is accompanied and monitored by a medical team and its emergency equipment in order to provide the care he or she needs or may need during the flight.

In addition, the patient travels on a secure aircraft equipped for his care.

Indeed, this mode of transport is perfectly adapted to patients suffering from serious pathologies, needing to carry out a medical evacuation from a place where there are not necessarily commercial air links to transport the patient to an adapted structure where he/she can be taken care of quickly.

This medical aircraft, which we can also call medical aircraft or air ambulance, is one of the solutions to transport the sick and injured quickly to an ad hoc structure.

Commercial flights with or without stretcher

Medical repatriation by commercial flight, in business class or stretcher, is an excellent alternative to air ambulance.

This is a more economical repatriation solution, which consists of flying the patient in business class in a seated position (or lying down, except during the take-off and landing phases), depending on his or her state of health.

The patient can travel seated, accompanied by a doctor or nurse and the usual standard medical equipment.

When the patient must remain lying down throughout the flight, with specific equipment related to his pathology (oxygen, resuscitation equipment…) or because he cannot move (hip fracture…), he will be installed on a stretcher at the back of the plane.

Only a few airlines offer this type of medical transport on stretchers. Air France is one of them.

The privacy of the patient is preserved thanks to a curtain that isolates him from the other passengers, and the medical team has more space than in an air ambulance to intervene with the patient if necessary. She can actually stand next to the patient.

Loved ones usually travel close to the back of the plane.

Wings to Wings

The “Wings to Wings” mode of transport means that the patient is picked up and transferred on different flights in order to reach the destination.

Often an air ambulance is used to transport the patient to the airport of departure if the patient is traveling on a commercial flight, or to pick up the patient upon arrival of a commercial flight and transport the patient to the final destination.

It can be useful to mix the two types of flights, air ambulance and commercial flight.

Bed-to-bed transfer includes the various ground transportation services required to get the patient from the hospital to the airport of departure.

Upon arrival at the destination, another ground ambulance will pick him up on board the plane and transport him with the medical team to the destination hospital where the team will transmit him to the hospital’s receiving physician.

Would you like more information on the different types of transport available for medical repatriation? (Medical aircraft, commercial flights with or without stretcher, bed transport, private jet…)

Contact the West Indies Assistance teams who will be happy to answer all your questions!

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