Meet the repatriation doctor

When you book a medical repatriation with EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation, who will be looking after your patient’s care?

One answer is our very own Dr Aneesh Samuel Dhanawade – Dr Sam for short – one of the in-house flight doctors here at EMS.

Based in our Dubai office, Dr Sam is a general practice physician who provides expert medical support on repatriations across the Middle East and the wider world. We asked him to tell us more about his role and how he cares for patients.

Meet the repatriation doctor

Welcome to the blog, Dr Sam! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi! Absolutely – I’m a GP, licensed to work within Dubai and the Northern Emirates. My chief interests are in internal medicine, cardiology and neurology. I was born in India but grew up and trained in Dubai, where EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation’s Middle East office is based.

What drew you to medicine originally?

It’s really in my family. My mother is a brilliant ophthalmologist and physician. My grandparents served as the only healthcare professionals at a mission hospital in a rural Indian village. It was listening to their exciting stories and cases, hearing the gratitude from their patients, and watching the empathetic care they provided that inspired me to become a doctor.

And what drew you to EMS?

I like the fact that we have a very strong focus on patient care, and the drive to quickly and efficiently transport a wide range of patients. We also have a really tight-knit team, from OPS members to medical crew, drivers and management. There’s a sense of family and mutual respect amongst every individual. That close relationship is really important because coordination is vital on repatriations. It allows us to carry out even the most challenging missions.

What’s your role here at EMS?

I’m a member of the core medical team. My job is to help with everything related to a patient’s medical condition. I speak to the customer and their local medical team, assess the patient before the transport and complete their Remote Medical Intake (RMI). I also talk to the receiving doctors so they know the patient’s exact condition before we leave.

Do you operate beyond the Middle East?

For the most part, I operate within the Middle East. Pre-transport assessments within the region and transports originating from this region both fall under my sphere of responsibility. Most of our routes take place in north-western Europe; I provide remote assistance for those too when necessary.

When a family gives the green light to a repatriation, what happens next?

The very first step is to contact the patient’s hospital. Speaking to the staff gives us an idea about their situation. If we’re lucky, they’ll have a detailed medical report already prepared, which they can share with us. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes we have to do a sort of negotiation for information with the treating team. That can be further complicated by language barriers or sub-par documentation. Thankfully we have a multilingual team that’s up to the challenge of communication with healthcare facilities the world over.

What happens then?

Once the RMI is completed, it goes through a control process. Our Medical Director, Prof Dr Arie van Vugt, makes any necessary corrections and has the final say in the appropriate modes of transport. Then we move into the bed arrangement phase. With the information we’ve gathered, we can contact the patient’s preferred facility and provide them with the medical information they need to accept the incoming patient. All the while, we’re at the ready to answer any questions from the patient or their family.

EMS has a 24/7 Doctor-on-Call for all transports – why do you do that?

As doctors, we’re there to answer any concerns that a patient or their family might have. This is of paramount importance because an unanswered question can lead to serious worry and desperation at such a stressful time. Having a medical professional who oversees the medical aspects of the transport is a boon to families who are nervous about the medical situation of their loved ones – especially if the patient isn’t receiving satisfactory care from their current facility, or if the nature of their medical condition hasn’t been properly communicated to them.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Completing a well-planned and coordinated transport is what I find most rewarding. I’d compare it to seeing a patient recover and leaving the hospital or being discharged from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It is simply immensely satisfying. Feedback from the patient and their family makes it all the better – not just the positive comments, but also the negative ones, as it helps us improve our performance and service.

If you had to give people one piece of advice about repatriations, what would it be?

There are always possibilities: that would be my message to patients and families. It can be daunting to consider leaving a hospital or a medical facility. Sometimes patients settle for poor medical treatment in fear of leaving, because of the local hospital’s medical advice. Other times they feel trapped and helpless as a result of inaccurate or conflicting reports from the treating team about their unsuitability to be transported. Unfortunately, these situations are quite commonplace. But to these families I’d like to convey the hope that there are always alternatives and possibilities. In most of these seemingly hopeless situations, there is a way out.

Outside the light jet

CV: Dr Aneesh Samuel Dhanawade

Born: Mumbai, India

Grew up: Dubai, UAE

Degree: MBBS from RAK Medical & Health Sciences University, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE

Internship: Ras Al-Khaimah hospitals with the Ministry of Health & Prevention

Overseas training: St John’s Hospital and Baptist Hospital, Bangalore, India

Previous roles: university teaching assistant in internal medicine; clinical practice

Get a free quote