Cathy Lizak
Contributing writer
last updated 12/17/2020

Medical repatriation during the pandemic

How to get patients back to their country of origin


During the pandemic, travel has slowed, but COVID-19 has made medical evacuation services even more of a necessity. Whether due to illness or accident, being hospitalized in a foreign country with unknown pandemic standards, away from advanced medical treatment and away from family is not advisable. Global Air Ambulance can get you to the level of care in your city of origin through medical repatriation.

Medical repatriation can be accomplished in one of three ways, by air ambulance, aboard a commercial airline on a stretcher or in first class or business class seats with a nurse escort. Your patient’s level of medical care needs and how quickly the transport must take place will determine which of these options is available.

If urgent care is required or if your patient is critical or on a ventilator, air ambulance is the best option for medical repatriation. Air ambulance can often arrive within 24 hours of contacting Global Air Ambulance. Air ambulance has the capability of transporting the most critical of patients completely around the world, providing them the same high level of medical care in the air as they would receive in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU).

If your patient is not in an ICU and is stable, another option for medical repatriation is on a stretcher in a commercial airline. This option can often cost half that of air ambulance but does typically require 7-10 days advance notice. At this time, commercial airlines do not provide the COVID protections you can get from traveling in a private air ambulance, however.

The third option for medical repatriation is traveling aboard a commercial airline in first class or business class seats with an airline medical escort. Global Air Ambulance escorts are registered nurses that have travelled extensively abroad and know the procedures for expeditiously transferring patients through international airports. To be repatriated this way, patients must be quite stable and be able to transfer from a wheel chair to an airline seat.

To determine if your patient is eligible for one of these three medical evacuation services, please contact Global Air Ambulance. One of our Case Managers will assist you initially to help determine which option is best for you. We can then assist you in determining availability and pricing.

Global Air ambulance will manage all logistical requirement for your international medical transport. All travelers will require passports, and in many cases, recent COVID 19 tests. The patient will require acceptance into the medical facility of destination prior to transport. That typically is not a difficult task.

First, a call to the admissions department of the facility that is chosen is made. The admission department representative will want to know the details about the patient including but not limited to: medical history, current medical condition, insurance information, sending facility case manager contact information, and sending physician contact information.

Once the patient is accepted, the admission department representative will assign a doctor to the patient. Typically, the doctor who is assigned to the patient will want to consult with the doctor treating the patient to understand the needs of the patient once they arrive at the receiving facility. The need to be able to communicate the condition of the patient as well as the treatment plan for the patient is invaluable.

Often times translators are needed to ensure that both the sending physician and receiving physician are in agreement on the condition of the patient as well as equipment and personnel needed to transport the patient safely back to their country of origin. At Global Air Ambulance we will coordinate the transfer of information between the sending are receiving facilities and provide translators when necessary.

Many people are unsure if their medical insurance will cover the cost of medical repatriation. All medical insurance policies are different and a call to the medical insurance company is always recommended to check coverages. In addition, some travel insurance policies may cover the cost of medical repatriation. Depending on the policy purchased some policies will pay to return the patient to the closes facility for treatment while other policies will return the patient to the hospital of the patient’s choice. Global air ambulance will work to verify your coverages prior to transport.

When ready to discuss your requirements further, please contact Global Air Ambulance at 1-800-948-1220 or you can email us at Our Case Managers are available 24 hours a day to assist you with your medical repatriation requirements.

Call For a Free Quote

Have more questions? We're happy to answer them.