The tragedy of delay in a medical emergency

The cost of emergency medical evacuation in Africa is worryingly expensive. There are few centres of medical excellence in Africa – so, in an emergency, it’s important to get to the appropriate facility as soon as possible.

Even a relatively simple operation such as setting a broken ankle, can result in amputation if the patient happens to be in the “wrong” country, says Aeroworx founder Graham Lambert.

Graham’s company specialises in affordable medical emergency evacuation policies – from just $40 a month – that cover emergency travel for patients who require immediate hospital treatment. The business was born of Graham’s own brush with a medical emergency.

Emergency medical transport comes at a high price. For example, an emergency flight from Angola to Johannesburg is about $37,000. Tragically, being unable to raise the necessary finance can have terrible consequences.

Graham recalls a recent upsetting case. “We are pleased to have a great relationship with many Ishmaili communities in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not long ago, we were contacted by the head of one of these communities. An elderly relative was seriously ill and it was clear she needed expert help. The nearest facility was in Nairobi, Kenya.”

Unfortunately, the patient and her family were not part of Aeroworx’s scheme. Instead of paying $40 per person per month, the family was now looking at a cost of over $35,000 for the flight. “Plus, the hospital demanded a deposit of $50,000 before they would start treatment,” says Graham,

“We will always try to help someone who is in distress. However, the time needed to raise finance to cover a plane trip is a huge source of difficulty for patients and their families,” explains Graham.

“We did the best we could for her, connecting her doctor in Kinshasa with the medical experts in Nairobi and trying to get everything in place so we could move her as soon as everything was in place,” says Graham.

Over the next four days the Ishmaili community rallied round to try to raise the money to help the patient. Tragically, in that time her condition took a turn for the worse and she passed away.

“I wish there was a happier end to this story,” says Graham, “but the reality is that emergency medical evacuation is prohibitively expensive for most people. I set up Aeroworx to help others by providing an excellent service for a small manageable outlay. When we can help patients get to modern medical assistance and then back to their lives, that’s a huge thing for me. It reinforces my belief that founding Aeroworx was the right thing to do.”

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