How does wheelchair access work on a medical repatriation?

This is an important question for many patients who need to go abroad for treatment. Wherever and however you’re travelling – whether to a home or hospital, by road or by air – your patient is inevitably going to face some physical transfers between rooms, buildings and vehicles. So how exactly does that work?

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If your patient needs a wheelchair when travelling

Many – perhaps most – patients who travel on repatriations need some kind of mobility support. Intensive-care patients almost always travel in a specialized stretcher bed for the whole journey. Other patients, though, will be well enough to sit up and even move around, yet still need help negotiating airport check-ins or moving between beds and ambulances.

The first thing to do is discuss wheelchair access with your repatriation company. This is something the EMS repatriation experts will ask you about when they call. You might also be able to tell them about any specific access issues that could be helpful for our medical team – for instance, if there’s no elevator in the building where we’re collecting your patient. Wherever you are in the world, we’ll also talk to the local doctors about your patient’s needs, and hospital access, when (or before) we arrive.

Secondly, EMS can always provide you with a wheelchair, however you plan to travel. Our road ambulances are each equipped with a foldable wheelchair, unless we need to make space for your luggage, or your own stroller or wheelchair (see below). We can also bring one with us on our medium-care air ambulance flights, and even on intensive-care air ambulances if it’s necessary. If you’re travelling on a regular commercial flight with a Medical Escort, most airlines will be able to provide you with wheelchair assistance up to the plane, and even up to your seat when they have a flight-friendly wheelchair on board.

If you want to bring your own wheelchair

If your patient has a wheelchair of their own, they may prefer to take it on the journey with them. This is potentially possible; it depends on the size of the chair and the type of transport you’re using. Small, collapsible wheelchairs can travel on most road and air ambulances and commercial flights. Just tell us ahead of time so we can ensure there’s enough space for it.

It will help if you can also:

  • tell us the size and weight of your wheelchair (or the make and model)
  • send details of how to disassemble and reassemble the wheelchair
  • bring the operating manual with you, if you have one

Larger or electric wheelchairs can sometimes be taken on certain medical flights, if the chair is collapsible and its battery pack can be removed. We will definitely need to have the measurements in advance, however, to check whether it’s possible for your flight.

If we can’t take your wheelchair on the aircraft

It isn’t always possible to take large or non-collapsible wheelchairs on every flight. Electric wheelchairs usually can’t go on an intensive-care air ambulance, for example, or on a regular commercial flight if you’re travelling with one of our Medical Escorts. In these situations, it’s best to arrange a courier service – such as DHL, UPS or FedEx – to collect and transport the wheelchair to your patient’s final destination. The courier company will need a contact person (their name and number) who can sign the paperwork and hand over the wheelchair. Confused about arranging a courier for your wheelchair? Please just ask the EMS team for help. We’ll be really happy to assist you with this.

Contact us

Any questions about wheelchair access on your medical transport? Just drop our team a line and they’ll be happy to answer. If you’re looking into pricing for repatriations and need to know more, you may like to try our online cost calculator. Whatever you need, we’ll do our very best to help.

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