International SOS conducts First Direct China-Taiwan Mass Medical Repatriation

Travel News Asia Thursday, 21 September 2006

Fourteen Taiwanese tourists injured in a bus crash in Northeast China flew directly home Tuesday on the first ever direct mass chartered flight organised by Singapore-based International SOS.

They arrived in Taipeis Taoyuan Airport at approximately 1300 hours local time on a medicalised Airbus 320, converted to accommodate stretchers and medical equipment and escorted by six doctors, eight nurses and two operations specialists from International SOS Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei alarm centres.

This landmark case marks the second direct air charter across the Taiwan Straits since the signing of an agreement in 14 June 2006 between Taiwan and China, allowing direct air access by chartered flights for emergency medical rescue.

Dr Charles Van Reenen, Medical Director, North Asia Region, International SOS said, This is the first time we are flying a mass casualty charter directly from China to Taiwan without a stopover, which saves us about two hours in transit time. A similar mass casualty flight in the past will require us to mobilize two large aircrafts one from China and one from Taiwan, with a transit stop in Hong Kong or Macau where we need to transfer patients into another aircraft, go through immigration clearance, and make other logistics preparations.

The 14 patients were part of a tour group of 20 Taiwanese nationals involved in a bus crash on 11 September, when their tour bus overturned and plunged into a river en route from Heilongjiang Province to Jilin.

Upon notification of the accident, International SOS immediately dispatched a doctor and operations specialist to Yanji, Northeastern Jilin Province, where the victims were admitted into local hospitals. Working with the local treating doctors, International SOS subsequently evacuated three seriously injured patients on air ambulances to Beijing for further treatment, escorted by International SOS medical staff on 12, 14 and 16 September.

Four days earlier, International SOS has also carried out the first direct cross-Straits medical evacuation of a 71-year-old Taiwanese man from Dongguan. That was the first time since 1949 that any flight of this nature has been possible.

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