Santa on SHN

Santa Claus is coming to town…or is he? By the time he completes his 14-days Stay-Home-Notice in each country, he should be done in 7 years’ time.

When Singapore-Malaysia opened up the borders for the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA), we saw a bit of activity then with a slightly increased number of travel enquiries, from business travellers to leisure travellers who have been stranded overseas and want to come home.

We were delighted when the planned travel bubble was announced as it gave us a glimpse of hope that very soon we can all travel again! Fat hope it turned out to be, because not long after the announcement, it was deferred following a sudden rise in Covid cases. Oh come on!

This darn virus has affected the livelihoods of many and disrupted the entire ecosystem especially the travelling industry. As a medical assistance provider, no cross-border travelling translates to additional challenges when transferring a patient who needs to be medically evacuated or repatriated, more so if the patient is tested to be Covid-positive. Even a deceased has to be cleared of Covid before the repatriation of mortal remains can be carried out.

Regulations differ from country to country and it also depends on the receiving countries. In most Covid cases, the patient will have to be treated locally but there are also special cases of successful evacuation for critical Covid-positive patients being transferred back to home country for further treatment. In such instances, commercial flight is not an option and the next possible viable mode would be via air ambulance/chartered flight suited with an insulation unit.

We’ve recently received a request for assistance to bring home a critically ill cancer patient. The patient travelled to China for treatment late last year but when the border closed, the patient was not able to return home and has been stranded in a hospital in a foreign country for nearly a year now. The family members are devastated and have been trying to find ways within their capacity and eventually reached out to us for help.

Cost is of course a major factor as travel insurance policies may not cover expenses that fall under the known exclusion, ie. a global pandemic. To add to that, options are limited as it can be a business risk for many air ambulance providers. Their medical escort team will also have to go through the standard quarantine period as per each country’s requirement, incurring cost of room & board and loss of time, which ultimately is added into the cost of the entire flight transfer. The case is still on-going and we’re all knee-deep in trying to help this family bring home their loved one. 

If only it is as easy as hitching a ride from Santa in a one horse open sleigh…

Santa on SHN
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