By: Lerato Masekela, a nurse within the medical division at Europ Assistance South Africa
When travelling overseas South Africans often have to purchase travel insurance as part of certain visa requirements. However, most people do not realise that they resultantly have assistance services in place as an added benefit of this travel insurance, which means that travel and medical assistance can be rendered to the traveller should they be faced with a medical emergency while in a foreign country. Lerato Masekela, a nurse within the medical division at Europ Assistance South Africa, educates us.
I have had first-hand experience of providing medical assistance to travellers that experience an unforeseen emergency while travelling abroad. My job as an international travel nurse entails managing international cases on a daily basis. I am responsible for assessing individual cases as per the respective insurance policy’s terms and conditions. The most important part of my job is to assess a patient’s condition when they arrive in a hospital in a foreign country, to ascertain whether the patient’s condition is stable and if he or she is fit to fly back to their home country.
Another important part of my role is to facilitate the process to ensure that the patient does not have to deal with the administrative tasks while they are sick or in pain, and to ensure that they get the best treatment possible.
I was recently sent on a trip to Hong Kong where I had to escort a South African traveller who needed medical attention. I travelled there as a nurse case manager to escort the patient as they needed constant monitoring throughout the flight back to South Africa.
Assessing the mobility of the patient is a crucial element in the planning, in case the patient will need assistance devices like a wheelchair. I also need to find out whether and what medicine the patient is on in order to establish when the next dose should be and also determine when the next dose should be given during the flight. I also measure the patient’s vital signs like blood pressure regularly to make sure the patient’s condition is stable during the entire journey.
It is also my responsibility to make sure that the aircraft is sufficiently prepared for the journey. It is important to be very familiar with the case and obtain all the medical records in order to make sure that I follow the flight recommendations. It is also vital to have the proper equipment on board and to ensure that I run every detail pass the doctor who treated the patient. This is all part of the process in preparing the action plan when I arrive at the patient’s foreign location. I will physically go to the hospital and meet the patient to do an assessment myself before we embark on the journey back to South Africa.
I ensure that I place the patient in a comfortable position according to his/ her illness or injury that will also enable me to monitor their pain and control the intake of prescribed medication. Throughout the journey I constantly reassure and update the patient to ensure that they are fully aware of our situation and their condition.
When on holiday there are many things that could go wrong in terms of injuries or sickness which would require the patient to seek medical assistance, like falling down a flight of stairs or getting the flu. However, when the person is in a foreign country a small incident can turn out to become a very traumatic experience as they need to deal with hospital staff who do not speak their language. My role is to ensure that process is not a traumatic experience for the patient