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Shangai to Johannesburg

A young 19 year old South African who was studying in Wenzhou, China became ill and was admitted to a local hospital in July 2018. He was fortunately covered on a travel insurance policy through Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC). This TIC Policy was managed by MSO International from a medical assistance point of view.MSO International was notified of this case after he had been in ICU in Wenzhou Government Hospital for almost 4 weeks. MSO was not happy with the care he was getting at this hospital, and arranged, through MSO’s partner IAG company, Covermore China, to move him by road ambulance to the Shanghai East International Medical Center (SEIMC) in Shanghai.


Evacuation Plans

All available options for evacuation to Johannesburg were considered, including commercial flights, air ambulance evacuations and the Lufthansa Patient Transport Compartment (PTC). An option to fly the patient to a top hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, was also considered. The Lufthansa PTC was selected as the preferred option due to the cost and the fact that the risks relating to the Air Ambulance evacuation were too high (multiple stops with two different air ambulance providers; risk of technical issues with aircraft; oxygen capacity issues).


The complication with the Lufthansa PTC was that it involved two flights, Shanghai to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to Johannesburg. There was a mandatory 17 hour lay-over in Frankfurt, which meant admission of the patient to a Frankfurt Hospital for this time, and the fact that the patient and flight doctor would would need a Schengen Visa. It took a great deal of effort from MSO, liaising with the SEIMC, the patient’s mother, Lufthansa and the German Embassy in Shanghai, to finally get the patient his Schengen Visa. This process took 2 weeks.


Dr Glenn Staples (Managing Director MSO International & Medical Director Awesome Air Evac), departed on Friday 17th August at 19h00 from Johannesburg to Frankfurt.

After assessing the patient and requesting some additional investigations and treatments prior to the flight, Dr Staples went to a local hotel to shower and get a few hours sleep before needing to be back at the hospital at 20h00 to begin the long trip to South Africa.

The patient was packaged together with the Shanghai Government Ambulance crew (which included a doctor), and they departed the hospital at 21h30.

Following a stressful hour’s delay at Shanghai International Airport, where their airport ambulance did not have a working ventilator, we finally managed to load the patient, using the airport Passenger Assist Unit (PAU) into the back door of the Lufthansa 747- 400, and into the PTC. The aircraft departed at 00h30 on Monday 20th August for Frankfurt.

The final leg of the flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg was uneventful, with the patient in a much more stable condition.

The patient’s mother came with us the whole trip and was given a seat just outside the door of the PTC, so she could remain in touch.

The flight landed at 08h30 on Tuesday 21st August at OR Tambo International Airport and the patient was off-loaded via the airport ambulance, and then transferred to an Emer-G-Med Ambulance at the airport clinic.

The patient was then finally handed over in good condition at Unitas Hospital ICU at 11h30 on Tuesday 21st Hospital, following a long but successful evacuation mission, which had given him the best chance of recovery from his condition.