Man­ag­ing health risks in risky places

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

As more and more Chi­nese com­pa­nies deepen their reach into over­seas coun­tries, med­i­cal risk con­trol has be­come a top con­cern, a re­port in­di­cates.

A grow­ing num­ber of busi­ness trav­el­ers and ex­pa­tri­ates, in­clud­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese em­ploy­ees, are be­ing sent to coun­tries with higher med­i­cal risks, and more of them are re­quir­ing med­i­cal as­sis­tance than ever be­fore, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by In­ter­na­tional SOS.

“More Chi­nese em­ploy­ers now have their businesses abroad, and they are re­al­iz­ing the im­por­tance of hav­ing pro­fes­sional med­i­cal as­sis­tance to en­sure their staff ’s safety,” said Dr Ti­mothy Fog­gin, deputy med­i­cal di­rec­tor for net­work part­ner­ships at In­ter­na­tional SOS .

Chi­nese com­pa­nies now rep­re­sent more than 10 per­cent of In­ter­na­tional SOS’ busi­ness in China.

“How­ever, we have seen rapid growth in our Chi­nese com­pa­nies busi­ness over the past few years. Our Chi­nese com­pa­nies port­fo­lio has grown close to 20 per­cent from last year,” said Fog­gin, adding that In­ter­na­tional SOS is in­vest­ing more re­sources and ca­pa­bil­i­ties ded­i­cated to Chi­nese com­pa­nies in China and abroad.

Over the past years, Chi­nese com­pa­nies have kept in­vest­ing and op­er­at­ing abroad. By the end of 2013, Chi­nese do­mes­tic in­vestors had set up more than 22,000 com­pa­nies over­seas. The com­pa­nies are lo­cated in more than 170 coun­tries and re­gions around the world.

In­ter­na­tional SOS med­i­cal case data from 2013 show more than 40 per­cent of ap­prox­i­mately 600,000 med­i­cal cases in 2013 oc­curred in coun­tries classed as “high” or “ex­treme” risk, a sharp in­crease from less than 25 per­cent in 2010. Mean­while, many costly med­i­cal cases in “ex­treme risk” coun­tries can po­ten­tially be pre­ventable.

For Chi­nese coun­tries, the ma­jor in-coun­try med­i­cal risks in­clude in­fec­tious dis­ease, the lack of ad­e­quate med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, fa­cil­i­ties, emer­gency re­sponse ser­vices and the un­fa­mil­iar health­care ser­vice en­vi­ron­ment. In-coun­try se­cu­rity risks in­clude po­lit­i­cal and civil un­rest, vi­o­lent crime, petty crime, vi­o­lence tar­geted against for­eign­ers and an­tiChi­nese sen­ti­ment.

“Prepa­ra­tion in­clud­ing risk as­sess­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and health check pro­grams for staff, will re­duce the need for in­ter­ven­tion af­ter travel. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for those trav­el­ling to high and ex­treme risk coun­tries,” said In­ter­na­tional SOS North Asia med­i­cal di­rec­tor Dr Gor­don Peters.

“Po­ten­tially such prepa­ra­tion can have a pos­i­tive im­pact on busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity. If com­pa­nies are not proac­tively man­ag­ing the health of their trav­el­ling staff prior to de­ploy­ment, they are run­ning the risk of failed as­sign­ments, pre­ventable costs, lit­i­ga­tion or even a tragic out­come,” he said.

“With more and more Chi­nese com­pa­nies go­ing abroad to con­duct busi­ness, the risk that they face in over­seas ar­eas will also be on the rise. Ac­tu­ally, we have seen a se­ries of po­lit­i­cal events, med­i­cal in­ci­dents and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters which af­fected Chi­nese staff in re­cent years. In this re­gard, how to pro­vide them with pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance and med­i­cal ser­vice be­comes a very im­por­tant is­sue,” said Lu Haikuan, chair­man and CEO of Shen­zhen Deer Jet Med­i­cal Co Ltd, a com­pany that has worked in the field of emer­gency air med­i­cal ser­vices for two decades.

This year, Shen­zhen set up an aero med­i­cal base in Shang­hai, part of its ef­fort to tar­get more Chi­nese com­pa­nies abroad and pro­vide them with timely, one-stop air med­i­cal ser­vice.

“Now there is a grow­ing need among Chi­nese com­pa­nies for such air med­i­cal ser­vice, and our goal is to pro­vide them with more con­sid­er­ate ser­vice,” Lu said.

In­ter­na­tional SOS said it has dis­patched more than 50 Chi­nese doc­tors over­seas to sup­port Chi­nese com­pa­nies’ on­site med­i­cal needs in some of the most chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ments, such as Iraq and Sudan. More­over, it’s also work­ing on pro­vid­ing more ser­vice per­son­nel in coun­tries where many Chi­nese com­pa­nies are clus­tered such as Nigeria, South Africa and Dubai.

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