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What you need to know about repatriation

With news there's been a whopping 80 percent increase in travel repatriations, we sit down with repatriation nurse, Rebecca Goodchap, to find out more about the process and hopefully avoid ever having to experience it ourselves.



- How does repatriation work?

There are many stages to a repatriation but it will vary according to the injury. In all cases, we assess the patient’s needs by speaking with them and then with their treating doctors. Following these discussions, we will determine whether the patient can fly commercially or in an air ambulance.


If a patient is flying on a commercial aircraft, they are either seated in business class or travelling on a stretcher. A stretcher is accommodated in economy class where three rows of seats are folded down and a frame is attached over the top. The patient is then placed on a special type of mattress that fits over the frame. If travelling on a stretcher, there are generally two Allianz Global Assistance staff escorting.


If family members are travelling with the insured when they become unwell, then they too travel home with the injured party. If an air ambulance is required, we outsource this to specialist providers such as Lifeflight.


- What are some of the most harrowing injuries and subsequent journeys you've seen?

Unfortunately we do see some harrowing injuries. One of our recent customers was in the Philippines and was shot three times whilst on the back of a motorbike. Surgery was required, followed by treatment to stabilise her. The patient was then repatriated home, which was quite complicated. She required two Allianz Global Assistance registered nurses and two air ambulances, as well as a commercial stretcher to get her home safely. We also had two spinal cord injuries in Whistler this year, both young patients in their twenties who will likely be in wheelchairs permanently. One was repatriated home in an air ambulance, and one was well enough to come home commercially on a stretcher. We have also seen some pretty bad injuries in Bali over the years; usually these are people who have come off scooters without full face helmets on – they end up sustaining quite severe facial injuries and often need months of ongoing treatment once home.


- Has seeing these injuries changed the way you travel? What are some of the things you'd never do while overseas?

Yes, very much so! I am a lot more cautious since working in this role – there is no way I would ride a scooter or a quad bike. I remember a case where one of our insured was injured when the bungee rope broke – bungee jumping is definitely out for me. I would never, ever, travel without the correct level of travel insurance.


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Published: 26 May 2017

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