For parents, spouses or even grown-up children, it is the stuff of nightmares: you receive a phone call telling you a family member has become seriously injured while in a hostile country.
Your loved one is thousands of miles from home, perhaps unconscious or in a critical condition, alone, frightened and without a support network fighting their corner.
The first few phone calls you make in those early moments are crucial.
Quite often Tangiers International is at the top of the list.
Dealing with anxious family members is a vital part of achieving the safe repatriation of an injured claimant for the professionals at Tangiers.
The task requires empathy and sensitivity as well as a deep understanding of foreign healthcare systems, international travel and medical confidentiality laws. For Carlos Hernandez, operations manager at Tangiers, there are some basic rules.
He said: “Firstly, it’s very important to be sympathetic. Second, we need to let them know that we know what we’re doing and that we’re in control of the situation.
“We will contact the hospital and we will let you know exactly what’s going on. If it happens in a country where there is a field agent nearby, we will contact them and the field agent will go to the hospital and see exactly what’s happening.
“Most importantly, perhaps, we also have to manage expectations.”
This may mean giving a realistic timeframe for a patient’s treatment or repatriation or it may entail explaining some of the bureaucratic hurdles which will need to be overcome in order to get their loved one home. Either way, giving a family member an overview of how the process works helps to reassure them that systems are in place.
Before any this can happen, however, Tangiers needs to ensure it is respecting the wishes of the patient.
Carlos said: “If the injured is compos mentis and they can actually talk, we ask them directly about who we can disclose information to about their case.
“We need to have written or at least verbal permission from the injured. Who would you like us to speak to? Or who would you like us not to speak to? It’s possible that they might not want us to share information at all.”
Once points of contact are confirmed, Tangiers can relay any developments to a family member, ensuring they’re up to speed on assessment, treatment and travel options available to the patient.
This doesn’t mean, however, that it always goes without a hitch.
“It does happen that family members request things which are not in the best interests of the patient,” said Carlos.
“One example is that a person is in hospital and the treating doctor says ‘Oh this person can be evacuated. They’re fit to fly’.
“But when we receive the medical report, we see that it is not appropriate at all to move the patient. Unfortunately, some of these hospitals want their patients out as soon as possible.
“In cases like these, it’s crucially important that we have built up a level of trust with the family members. It allows them to see that we’re operating truthfully, in the best interests of the patient.”