Overseas and overlooked: Are your employees covered in an emergency?

Employees working in some of the world’s most dangerous or remote regions may be left high and dry in the event of a medical emergency, Tangiers International has warned.

Inadequate cover, incomplete medical declarations and a lack of basic planning by companies and NGOs mean crucial treatment or evacuation services can be seriously delayed or called off entirely.

Speaking at the seventh annual World Extreme Medicine Conference this month, Tangiers’ medical director Dr John Quinn pinpointed the most common pitfalls faced when arranging cover.

He also ran through the vital steps organisations could take to ensure that – if disaster struck – they were best placed to get workers home safely.

Dr Quinn, chairing a panel discussion also featuring Tangiers’ operations manager Carlos Hernandez, shared best practice with a host of organisations as part of a roundtable discussion during the Edinburgh-based conference.

He said: “Whether it is private industry, non-profits or even individuals engaging in adventure travel, it’s vitally important to be asking the right questions when taking out cover.

“Does the policy have the ability to get me out of trouble if something goes very seriously wrong? If I’m so unwell that I need to be medically evacuated, can it do that?

“The number one pitfall faced by policy holders is they have inadequate cover.

“For example, their policy may cover medical costs in country but not evacuation. Or perhaps it doesn’t cover the specific activity the claimant was engaging in. It may not even cover the country they happen to find themselves in.

“Individuals or their employers need to be sure what medical and evacuation cover they have and if it’s going to be sufficient for where in the world they are and the activities they’re planning to engage in.”

Dr Quinn explained that safeguarding against medical disaster began way before policy holders boarded their flights.

“One of the things that causes delays to treatment or evacuation is your insurer not having access to the documents it needs to do its job,” he explained.

“In an emergency, it’s common that co-workers or friends are scrambling about trying to get copies of your passport in order to expedite evacuation, for instance.

“This is all stuff that can and should be done before you even get on the plane.”

As well as practical advice such as obtaining a second passport and producing laminated colour copies before departure, Dr Quinn delved into the steps you could take to ensure your insurance provider was operating at maximum efficiency in the event of an emergency.

“You should be asking your provider questions, making sure you’ve given them every piece of information they require – these things all make a massive difference.

“It may seem tedious or cumbersome to go through all your policy documents and fill in every last piece of info they ask from you, but, ultimately, it means that if you have a medical emergency, specialists have the information they need instantly.

“That means they can do their jobs without delay – getting you treated or getting you recovered somewhere.”

The conference, which took place between November 23-25, brought together medical professionals, expedition leaders, extreme athletes, humanitarians and others in the industry to share experiences and promote cross-disciplinary working.