South Africa

Medical flights services in South Africa

Medical flights services in South Africa

Medical flights services in South Africa
The usage of Medical flights for transporting patients is gaining popularity over the period. Most of them avail for these services during emergency but there are cases whereby the people with financial vantage use these services for flying to countries which are having better facilities and the services can be availed faster and medical flights are the convenient mode of transportation. The family of the patient also travels along with the patient and a team of medical escort  provides their expert services. Medical flights are used for transportation of a patient, who needs critical care transportation. These flights are specially accoutered for flying with intensive care units like a medical stretcher, specialized medical equipment, kit of patient specific medicines. The aircraft carries with it a medical team which may comprise of a doctor, nurse, paramedics, respiratory care specialist, to meet the specific needs of the patient.
The government of South Africa faces enormous challenges to provide extensive medical facility, quality, and affordable healthcare for South African citizens. The demand for high quality healthcare, over the past few years, above the basic primary services that is offered at public hospitals, resulted in the development of a large number of  private medical sector. South Africa at present has a two-fold healthcare sector comprising of government funded public services and a private sector hospitals and medical centers for those who possess the necessary funds for access . The public health sector hospitals are often overcrowded and under-supplied. Regulatory concerns are not limited to just the public sector; the greatest problem which exists in the private hospital is the lack of price regulation, which has resulted in excessive price escalation, and potentially leads to middle-class citizens seeking treatment abroad. Trend has been seen in the cases of Indian-South Africans, who prefer to travel to India to seek medical advise and treatment,due to medical affordability in India. Mediclaim facilities is another reason which has developed a market in which most medical disbursement are covered by third party insurance companies, and as a result patients think less while selecting professionals or services based on price. Thus lack of facilities in public sector and expensive treatment in the private sector often have lead to the expats and also the Indian and African people to travel to India.
Medical tourism traditionally involves patients traveling from less developed countries to more developed and medically advanced centers for treatment they cannot receive in their home countries . However, nowadays an increasing number of patients from the more developed countries now approach medical services in less developed countries, such as African countries, India and Thailand. Asia currently ranks top in the charts and the three major global medical tourism destinations are, India, Singapore and Thailand. More specifically, the development of medical tourism as an economic development strategy in India is argued to have resulted from neoliberalisation of the economy and related efforts to reduce public expenditure and to open the Indian economy for foreign investment . These services are comparatively affordable for the wealthy in India, and for medical tourists from both developed and developing countries . Private healthcare continues to become inaccessible to local Indians as the Indian government encourages expansion to capitalise on medical tourists, particularly from neighbouring countries such as , Nepal, Bhutan, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan etc , where patients often do not have access to similar specialised services offered in India . Recently, India has witnessed a huge exponential growth and development in its medical tourism sector. The medical tourism sector was  initiated in the year 2002 by the Indian government, as part of the ‘Incredible India' tourist campaign. The multi-billion dollar campaign spurred infrastructure development to accommodate incoming tourists, including upgrades to airports, tourist facilities, and hospitals to cater specifically for tourist needs . India hosts patients from more than fifty-five countries approximately across Europe, North-America, Africa and Asia .
Upen, was born and brought up in South Africa. His family headed from India, during the early 1950’s his grandparents traveled to South Africa for work purpose and settled there. They quiet often visited India. This time they planned to travel to India but with a different purpose. Upen’s grandmother Geeta was detected with a lung disease, called Sarcoidosis. The doctor’s suggested that there is no particular treatment for the infection. The family wanted to have a second opinion in her case and so they decided to repatriate the patient to India. 
It is an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body, but mostly the lungs and lymph glands. People with sarcoidosis, suffer with abnormal formation of masses or nodules (called granulomas) consisting of inflamed tissues in certain organs of the body particularly the lungs. 

The Symptoms of Sarcoidosis:
The symptoms of sarcoidosis vary depending on which organs are infected by the disease. Mostly patients complain of a dry cough which persists for long duration , fatigue, and even shortness of breath.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Reddish bumps or patches develop n the skin
  • Joint pain or swelling in the joints.
  • Blurred vision or teary eyes.
  •  Lymph glands gets enlarged in the chest and around the lungs.
  •  A person may develop symptoms like enlarged and tender lymph glands in his neck, groin, and armpits.
  • Hoarseness in the voice.
  • Hands, feet, or other bony areas may encounter tremendous pain due to the formation of cysts in bones.  
  • Kidney stone formation.
  • Liver gets enlarged.
  • Development of abnormal pattern of heart beats or missed heart beats (arrhythmias), inflammationof the covering of the heart, or a person may suffer from heart failure in adverse cases.
  • Nervous system of the person may get effected, including hearing loss, psychiatric disorders, meningitis, or seizures.


Diagnosis of Sarcoidosis:
There is no specific or single method to diagnose sarcoidosis, since most of the symptoms are observed in several other common diseases as well. The doctor has to carefully review the patient's medical  history and examine to determine and conclude if the person has sarcoidosis.
The tests which the doctor may suggest to diagnose sarcoidosis are:
Chest X-rays may be suggested to check whether pulmonary fluid has formed.
HRCT scan (high resolution CT) may be conducted to get an even more detailed look at the lungs and lymph nodes condition than the result provided by a chest X-ray.
Breathing tests or pulmonary function tests may be performed to measure how well the lungs are working.
Bronchoscopy may be performed to inspect the condition of the bronchial tubes and to extract a small tissue sample to perform biopsy to look for presence of  granulomas and check for the infection of the lungs.

Patient with acute condition , may get cured over time and there is no particular cure for sarcoidosis. Many people with sarcoidosis develop only mild symptoms and do not require any treatment. Treatment, is needed,when chronic symptoms develop and treatment is given to reduce the symptoms and to retain the proper working order of the affected organs of the person.
Treatments generally fall into two categories -- 
1. Maintenance of good health practices 2. Drug treatment. 
Good health practices that a person should follow when affected with sarcoidosis:

  • Eat healthy food.
  • Quit smoking. 
  • Regular health check-up.
  • Taking medicines on time, if the medication has been initiated for the patient.

Mostly oral corticosteroid prednisone drug may be prescribed as drug treatment to relieve symptoms and to reduce the inflammation of the affected tissues. The is the most commonly used treatment for the patient sufferingfrom this disease. The steroid treatment usually improves fatigue and persistent cough. The patient should regularly visit the doctor to keep a track of the current medication and health condition.

Hi-Flying team arranged for the repatriation of Geeta, in an Air ambulance which was equipped with all the respiratory equipment required for flying a patient with sarcoidosis history. A family member was also allowed to fly along with the patient. Arrangements were made to transport the patient from her residence in South Africa to the airport in an ambulance. A doctor and nurse were present in the ambulance to take care of the well being of the patient throughout the transportation process. Ground clearance and the necessary documentation clearance was arranged by the administrative staff. All the medication was taken care of during the journey by the medical team. They landed in India safely and the ground ambulance to transport the patient to the selected hospital was already arranged on arrival by the Hi Flying services. The family was extremely satisfied by the services as none of the members of the family had to undergo tedious grilling for the documentation procedure during the entire process. 

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