“Indo-Pakistan border disputes ”
“Terrorists attack Algerian terminal”
“Hurricanes strike the Philippines’
“Israel threatens war against Iran”
“Thousands flee tsunami“
“Volcano stops European air travel “
just some of the many natural and political problems that we have experienced over
the last three years.
So what has
this to do with medical tourism?
simple… if you send people to another country, or are responsible for bringing
them from another country to get treatment, then YOU are responsible for
getting them back home safely in a crisis.
Not my problem!
facilitators and agencies may hold the view that getting patients to and from
the destination is not their problem. “If there is a crisis, surely the
government and the airline will sort it out?” …Wrong on so many levels.
business makes money, or takes money from people, by getting them to travel
from their home to another location for treatment, medical check or wellness
break, then YOUR BUSINESS is the prime organization responsible for dealing
with a crisis.
well believe that it is up to the hotel or hospital or airline to do that, but
the international law of agency gives you primary responsibility. If your
clients get hurt, killed or even just scared, by an event when they were
overseas for something you had a hand in organizing, then the buck stops with
You need an
emergency plan. You should have a written emergency plan so that if a problem
arises, you do not have to think up the response on the spot.
You need to
think about all the possible things that can go wrong, not just in a local or
national emergency, but also for more mundane matters such as;
What happens if a customer or companion dies naturally on the way to,
during, or after medical treatment?
What happens if a customer dies during medical treatment?
What is needed for an emergency plan?
articles and papers refer to “principles of emergency management,” but there is
no agreed-upon definition of what these principles are.
specialist group has put together eight principles of what emergency management
Comprehensive – consider and take into account all hazards, all phases,
all stakeholders and all impacts relevant to disasters.
Progressive – anticipate future disasters and take preventive and
preparatory measures to build disaster-resistant and disaster-resilient
Risk-driven – use sound risk management principles (hazard
identification, risk analysis, and impact analysis) in assigning priorities and
Integrated – ensure unity of effort among all organizations involved.
Collaborative – create and sustain broad relationships among individuals
and organizations to build consensus and agree communication protocols.
Coordinated – synchronize the activities of all relevant stakeholders to
achieve a common purpose.
Flexible – use creative and innovative approaches in solving disaster
Professional – use a science and knowledge-based approach; based on
education, training, experience, ethical practice, public stewardship and
have in place a method of contacting all customers when travelling or overseas.
also agree what you are going to tell them in an emergency, and arrange to have
written proof of what you have done.
Testing the plan
practice this may not be easy, just as we should all be used to fire drills to
prepare for fires, no plan is of real use unless it can be tested. You can work
with suppliers on testing the plan. The plan may be unworkable and need
tweaking e.g. you find you cannot get hold of suppliers/partners at weekends
or at night, but weekend night-time may be when a problem arises.
You need to
have a system where you can put customers and all stakeholders on alert to warn
them of a possible problem and what you or they need to do at that stage, if
there is a possible problem that is not yet a reality.
tourism is now an international business. If you are in this business you need
to act in a professional business-like way, and that includes disaster
The role of national agencies
In the last
few years when there have been political, terrorism or weather disasters, the
national medical and tourism organizations of those countries have been almost
always conspicuous by their absence.
I will not
embarrass the country, but one organization was telling everybody 'It is
perfectly safe to come to our country, medical tourists are not involved’ at
the same time that armed gunmen were running though a city center hospital
terrorizing patients - including medical tourists.
be a small agency, and feel all this is too much to bother with. But think on
this, if you have customers who are killed or injured, and you could have done
something to avoid this, it will be your business that suffers.
Ian Youngman is a writer and researcher specialising in insurance and health. He writes regularly for a variety of magazines, newsletters, and on-line services. He also publishes a range of insurance reports and undertakes research for companies. An ACII, with an honours degree in Economics from the University of Liverpool, Ian was a co-founder of The General Insurance Market Research Association. He also has widespread experience within the insurance industry at management level, working for brokers, a bank and an insurance company.
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