For the weekend boater, the radio is usually the only piece of equipment needed to get out of trouble: the Coast Guard and shore is normally close by, and there are often other boaters within hailing distance, if things really go south. For those who captain commercial ships, or those who go cruising for extended periods of time, though, help may not be within hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Any number of ailments can affect sailors while at sea. From a broken ankle to more serious problems like internal bleeding and heart attacks, most boats do not have the proper medical equipment and talent onboard to adequately care for unexpected injuries and maladies. Emergency medical evacuation companies (MediVac for short) can have aircraft ready at a moment’s notice to evacuate anyone who needs medical attention. They also have doctors on call around the clock to offer medical advice via satellite phone while the air ambulances are en route. If you are not a subscriber to these services, calling Aeromedical transport is rarely covered by insurance, and can cost over $100k per incident. Having a subscription to a private Medivac service can literally mean the difference between life and death while hundreds of miles from shore. When we talked to Kevin Forsythe, M.D. he told us “We know that timely transport to an appropriate hospital is critical for best treatment outcomes, especially with open injuries (broken skin) in a marine environment where bacteria can cause severe infection.”
I wasn’t willing to go through a live field test of the best private MediVac companies from the middle of the Pacific, so our judgment relied on the services that they offer, testimonials, and the companies’ experience in the field. We came to the conclusion that Global Rescue Maritime is the best and most comprehensive emergency medical evacuation service for sailors.
Global Rescue tells us:
Through its ability to provide real-time medical consulting anywhere in the world from its specialists at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Global Rescue is able to relay critical medical support to sick or injured mariners while they are thousands of miles from a hospital or out of the range of a medivac aircraft. Since most ocean-going vessels do not possess medically trained and equipped crews, Global Rescue provides ship captains the confidence and peace of mind needed to be sure injured sailors will be well cared for until rescue teams can reach the vessel.
In addition to its medical consultation services, the Boston-based crisis response company has a network of medically equipped, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft on every continent, thousands of vetted hospitals worldwide who can provide treatment in any patient’s language, and a selection of Centers of Excellence around the globe that offer medical care on par with that available in the United States. Its deployable paramedics routinely respond to emergencies in the most remote reaches of the planet.
When a shipmate is injured off an unfamiliar coast, Global Rescue will give you the confidence to stabilize him on board and the knowledge that first-rate medical providers are deployed to the closest point of land. Family members will be comforted in the knowledge that Global Rescue will keep them informed and expedite his return to a hospital of their choice.
Here is a video to give you a better idea:
To get medical help or to get evacuated, Global Rescue connects emails and satellite phone calls to paramedics. If an aircraft is unable to reach your location, expert medical advice is explicitly spelled out via satellite phone.
“We provide advisory services more often than we evacuate people. Our medical team works with you. If you’re in the middle of the Atlantic or the South Pacific, thousands of miles from land, your options are limited. We can walk you through and mobilize resources to move in your direction,” founder and CEO Dan Richards said in a Practical Sailor article.
We had a woman gored by a Cape buffalo in Zimbabwe. We got a call from the safari guide after the woman gave them her Global Rescue card or number. We deployed a helicopter for field rescue, to Victoria Falls, where we got her to a clinic. She was evaluated and stabilized, then a fixed-wing aircraft evacuated her to South Africa, where she stayed in a hospital for three weeks to stabilize before going back to Texas where she lived. We saved her life, although she never regained use of her lower extremities.
When compared to other major players in the MediVac industry, Global Rescue stands above the rest because of the breadth of their coverage and size of their aerial fleet. International SOS offers similar services as Global rescue, but their full-time medical staff is half the size of Global Rescue’s. International SOS has been in business five years longer than Global Rescue, but the number of evacuation operations they have performed is nearly the same in the past year. International SOS has offices in 79 countries, but fewer assistance centers and clinics than Global Rescue, meaning that their network of hospitals and medical professionals is smaller.
Another comparable company, Remote Medical International (RMI) has been in business since 1985. They focus more on training, provisioning and medical planning rather than medical evacuation. Remote Medical flies their doctors to all corners of the world to train families and other groups in emergency medical care. Their 27-hospital network is around a quarter of the size of Global Rescue’s network. Remote Medical might be the right fit for company safety and training, but their evacuation service is lacking. They partner with the Cega Group, a U.K. based air ambulance service, to provide their MediVacs. Tom Milne, owner of Remote Medical, stressed in a Practical Sailor article that evacuations are often times impossible.
“It’s not Disney World. Things go wrong,” he said. “Evacuation can be part of the mix, but MediVac is typically complex, can take a long time, and whether or not you have insurance it can be costly.”
Many sailors know some of the most beautiful places in the world are not necessarily the most peaceful. One thing that Global Rescue also specializes in is evacuations during political strife. Employees of Global Rescue are trained to keep current on geopolitical current events and other information that might impair client safety. If a client ends up in a place of civil unrest, Global Rescue is trained to safely extract them before their life is in danger. Richards was featured in a U.S.A. Today article detailing the extra security measures taken during this year’s Sochi Olympics. In short, Global Rescue was contracted for security and evacuation of the entire U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams if something went south during the Olympics.
“All hell broke loose” said Jeffery Cason, dean of international programs, before the Global Rescue team (who had already been surveying Alexandria for a week) was contacted. They evacuated the students in vans, driving along routes the team had been planning for the past week to avoid protests and road blocks. The college now has a long-term contract for all of its international students with Global Rescue.
In another instance accounted by the New York Times, a U.S. Ski team skier was knocked unconscious during a training run in Tignes, France. It was later discovered in a local hospital that she broke her pelvis in two places and suffered a severe concussion, among other injuries. After it was determined she should be treated in the U.S., Global Rescue had a medically equipped jet in Tignes the next morning to take her home to Colorado where she made a full recovery.
When it comes to MediVac companies, purchasing anything but the most comprehensive coverage could leave you helpless and stranded. Global Rescue’s affordable coverage is the smartest solution for medical and preventative evacuation and remote medical advice. Their award-winning medical staff and array of rescue aircraft distinguish their company from others in the industry, but in our opinion, the totality of their coverage solidifies that they are the best medical evacuation service for mariners.