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My Mozambique medical emergency

Under the guidance of Medical Director, Dr Mitesh Patel, Aetna International’s Care and Response Excellence (CARE) team is responsible for ensuring members faced with a medical crisis get the help they need, almost wherever they are in the world.

Experience has taught the former air ambulance consultant, a veteran of approximately 200 call outs, that medical emergencies demand a rapid response. Dr Patel has ingrained that philosophy into his central teams and the health care consultants he works with globally.

International CARE

Operating out of the UK, the CARE team co-ordinates Aetna International’s response to member emergencies through a team of regional health care professionals, who also work closely with the member’s treating doctor.

Dr Patel talks through a case his team handled in Mozambique, in which quick thinking on the part of both the member’s family and the CARE team delivered a life saving result.

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Tummy trouble

“We took a call around two in the morning, from the sister of an Aetna International member whose wife had been taken ill at their home in Mozambique. She’d been complaining of steadily worsening stomach pain and her husband had taken her to a local doctor to try and find out what was happening.

“They stopped the operation and took the patient into recovery… with an open stomach wound covered with gauze”

“The local doctor suspected an infected abscess and rushed her into hospital where she was prepped for immediate surgery. The plan was to drain the abscess and remove the infection.

Major infection

“Once the patient was on the operating table the medical team discovered they were actually dealing with two abscesses. This was beyond the experience of both the team and the resources of the hospital. The treating surgeon needed to think through what to do next, so they stopped the operation and took the patient into recovery, effectively with an open stomach wound covered with gauze.

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“At this point, the patient’s health began to get worse and her sister made the call to our emergency assistance line.

Rapid evacuation

“Once the call handler had taken account of the details, it was clear the patient was in an extremely dangerous position. If she stayed in that hospital, she’d most likely die, so we knew we had to work with the treating physician and, with the consent of the member’s family, arrange to extract her to a facility better equipped to handle the situation as soon as possible.

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“Securing an air ambulance, we flew into the local airport and took her out of the country, down to a hospital in Johannesburg. We’d already been in touch with the receiving hospital so they were primed to expect the patient, and immediately took her into their intensive care unit.

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Emergency surgery

“The patient needed emergency surgery and the team in Johannesburg rushed her into theatre within twelve hours of us receiving the initial call. After several complex operations, during which the surgeon had to perform a bowel resection, the patient’s life was saved. But without that call from her sister, it’s highly likely the member would have died in Mozambique.

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Full recovery

“From a medical perspective, this was one of the worst cases I’ve been involved with. The patient spent five weeks recovering in hospital, during which time we continued to oversee her care. Fortunately, thanks to her family’s quick action, she’s now back at home, having made a full recovery.”

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Quick response

The CARE team’s rapid response resulted in a successful medical extraction and recovery for the patient in this case, much to the relief of the member’s family. But the CARE team’s provision goes beyond emergency assistance. Their support actually begins from the moment members begin planning their international travel.

Careful planning

Aetna International members can take pre-travel assessments to help the CARE team identify any existing, chronic or new health issues, ensuring they can be treated correctly while they’re overseas. If they need special medicine transported, the team can arrange for that to happen in parallel with the member’s own journey.

The team can advise on: risks of infectious diseases, the state of the health care system, and emergency local medical facilities

The team will also advise on any potential medical issues that could arise in their new country, such as risks of infectious diseases, the state of the health care system, and identifying emergency local medical facilities, such as hospitals and clinics.

Round-the-clock support

Once the members plan is in place, they have access to a 24/7 help line, available 365 days a year for both medical emergency situations and general medical assistance. In the event of illness or accident, members can be certain the CARE team will aim to give them access to the best treatment, regardless of where they are in the world.

When a request for assistance reaches Aetna International, the CARE team evaluates the case and collaborates with the member’s local treating doctor to determine the best course of action.

In emergencies that could mean flying in an air ambulance to extract the patient to a specialist hospital, as in the Mozambique case, or it could mean flying patients across the world for an appointment with an international specialist, if the member’s plan entitles the member to treatment in the relevant country.

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Well-being around the world

Members working overseas for companies with Aetna International medical insurance cover in place can also benefit from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides further support and peace of mind. From overcoming difficulties settling into a new country, to coping techniques for stress and anxiety and tackling the root causes, access to counselling, EAP provides peace of mind for expatriate employees during a period that can often present new challenges.

The emergency assistance and medical supervision provided by the CARE team forms part of a range of health and wellness services available to Aetna International members, wherever they live in the world. Whether you’re an individual looking for international private medical insurance for a pending move abroad, or an employer looking for international cover for an internationally mobile workforce, call our expert sales consultants to learn more about the service and support we offer.

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