An up­set tummy is one thing, but get­ting so sick that you have to go to hos­pi­tal or be flown out while on hol­i­day abroad is no joke.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents - Text Charles Thomp­son Sketch Owen Wil­loughby

Be­fore you em­bark on a long tour abroad, you probably prepare your ve­hi­cle thor­oughly to pre­vent any pos­si­ble prob­lems that might oc­cur on or off-road. You have it ser­viced and pack a set of re­cov­ery equip­ment, a tool­kit and spare parts. But what hap­pens if some sort of trou­ble or ill­ness be­falls a mem­ber of the tour? Did you make the nec­es­sary prepa­ra­tions or pack the right things? And what will your med­i­cal aid say if an air am­bu­lance has to come fetch you? The chances of some­thing se­ri­ous like this hap­pen­ing might be fairly slim, but re­mem­ber: Pre­ven­tion is al­ways bet­ter than cure.

Get your pa­per­work sorted

Firstly, find out how things stand with your med­i­cal aid, be­cause there are nu­mer­ous con­di­tions and re­stric­tions sur­round­ing cov­er­age when you’re out­side the bor­ders of your coun­try of res­i­dence. The coun­try’s largest med­i­cal aid provider, Dis­cov­ery, cov­ers you for an amount of be­tween R5 mil­lion and R10 mil­lion, de­pend­ing on your plan, while Boni­tas, the sec­ond largest, will pay up to R5 mil­lion on all plans ex­cept the ba­sic BonCap. Both com­pa­nies also only cover you for 90 days. So if you’re plan­ning on trav­el­ling all the way up to North Africa for six months, you’ll have to take out travel in­sur­ance with a com­pany like Europ As­sist or AIG (any travel agent will be able to help you with this). Also make sure you have your med­i­cal aid’s in­ter­na­tional emer­gency num­bers handy. It probably dif­fers from the ones you use when you’re in South Africa. Dis­cov­ery and Boni­tas both say they will cover the cost of an au­tho­rised emer­gency visit to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal (if it falls within your plan’s limit, of course). If this is not nec­es­sary and you are able to travel, your med­i­cal aid will also pay through a ser­vice like ER24 so that you can be brought back to South Africa. Just dou­ble check the fine print: Dis­cov­ery doesn’t cover, for ex­am­ple, search-and-res­cue oper­a­tions, so if you get lost some­where in

Le­sotho’s moun­tains and a res­cue party has to come find you, you might have to cough up. Tip Make sure you have enough cash on you for med­i­cal emer­gen­cies. You’ll probably have to pay an ex­cess that you might only be able to claim back home. Pack your (first-aid) bag Once you’re sure about the terms and con­di­tions of your med­i­cal aid’s in­ter­na­tional cov­er­age, it’s time to prepare for less se­ri­ous ail­ments. Just don’t try to pack an en­tire phar­macy in an old shoe­box. Ask the right ques­tions. Where are you go­ing and what do you plan on do­ing? For a malaria zone, for ex­am­ple, you’ll pack dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tion than for icy Le­sotho. Pri­ori­tise. Pack chronic med­i­ca­tion first (and ex­tra for emer­gen­cies). Think of the chil­dren. Make sure you take the right kind of med­i­ca­tion for both adults and chil­dren. Pack enough. Take enough med­i­ca­tion for your whole trip, plus a bit ex­tra for emer­gen­cies. La­bel every­thing clearly. Al­ways ask your phar­ma­cist to la­bel all med­i­ca­tions, es­pe­cially pills and syrup that have been re­moved from its orig­i­nal pack­ag­ing. And re­mem­ber… There’s also pa­per­work for med­i­ca­tion. Things like an­tibi­otics, chronic med­i­ca­tion, cer­tain pain pills, and an­ti­his­tamine have to be pre­scribed by a doc­tor. If you’re cross­ing a bor­der, you need a note from your doc­tor con­firm­ing that you’re tak­ing pre­scrip­tion medicine. Now you can start pack­ing. A first-aid kit should con­tain the fol­low­ing: >

Have an emer­gency plan ready

Be­fore you hit the road, make sure you have an emer­gency plan. In its most ba­sic for­mat, an emer­gency plan is ba­si­cally a piece of pa­per with all the emer­gency num­bers at home and abroad that you think you might need. You can of course ex­pand it to suit your needs. Jac­ques says your plan should have the fol­low­ing kind of in­for­ma­tion: the num­bers of pri­vate and pro­vin­cial emer­gency ser­vices, your doc­tor’s af­ter-hours con­tact de­tails, and any num­bers that are rel­e­vant to your jour­ney, for ex­am­ple the Moun­tain Club of South Africa, Wilder­ness Search and Res­cue, or the NSRI. Ac­quaint your­self with the near­est hos­pi­tal – where it is and what types of ser­vices are avail­able there. “You don’t want to drive 100 km and find that the ‘hos­pi­tal’ is ac­tu­ally a tiny TB clinic!” says Jac­ques. Deeper into Africa, med­i­cal help isn’t al­ways read­ily avail­able and the con­di­tions in the hos­pi­tals are of­ten ap­palling, so find out ahead of time where you can find re­li­able med­i­cal help and in­clude this in­for­ma­tion in your emer­gency plan. You should for­mu­late your plan ac­cord­ing to the spe­cific med­i­cal prob­lems you might en­counter on your route – think about things like de­hy­dra­tion due to ex­treme tem­per­a­tures, high ac­ci­dent zones, and malaria. Also en­sure some­one at home has a copy of your emer­gency plan. Lastly, says Jac­ques, it’s im­por­tant to have the med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of every­one in your group, like med­i­cal con­di­tions and how to han­dle it, med­i­cal aid num­bers, blood types and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, and next of kin’s con­tact de­tails.

Prepare your­self for the worst

Ber­tus Prinsloo, a con­sult­ing op­er­a­tional of­fi­cer for the med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion ser­vice Ae­ro­care, says mis­con­cep­tions sur­round­ing in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal aid cover and how fast they act are the big­gest prob­lems he’s seen amongst trav­ellers. Ber­tus has his own med­i­cal emer­gency com­pany, Out­door Med­i­cal, and reg­u­larly of­fers para­medic cov­er­age for Land Rover and Ford’s out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. And he’s trav­elled deep into Africa with Kings­ley Hol­gate and his team. “Don’t think you merely wave your card around while you’re ly­ing some­where in the bush and sud­denly a chop­per ap­pears on the hori­zon,” says the Gaut­enger. “It takes hours to sort out all of the ad­min sur­round­ing aero­planes and he­li­copters. You need a flight plan, au­tho­ri­sa­tion to fly across the bor­der, and there’s Cus­toms.” He says it’s a prob­lem with the med­i­cal aids if you get injured or sick out­side of of­fice hours or far from a hos­pi­tal. “On a re­cent tour a Bri­tish woman broke her an­kle in Mozam­bique. Her med­i­cal in­sur­ance at home sim­ply re­fused to ac­ti­vate her cov­er­age be­fore they could speak to lo­cal med­i­cal per­son­nel. When we could fi­nally drag her to a lo­cal clinic, the peo­ple there only spoke Por­tuguese.” Ber­tus says it’s im­por­tant to al­ways no­tify your med­i­cal aid in writ­ing be­fore leav­ing the coun­try. “If you’re go­ing to Namibia to do some 4x4 driv­ing and you roll your ve­hi­cle some­where in Etosha, you don’t want to then ex­plain why you’re phon­ing from abroad.” He reck­ons it’s al­ways a good plan to take out ad­di­tional cov­er­age, but warns that med­i­cal aids and travel in­sur­ance work best for “ideal sce­nar­ios” – those where your con­di­tion isn’t too se­ri­ous and there’s time to ob­tain the nec­es­sary au­tho­ri­sa­tion when you need to be ad­mit­ted to a hos­pi­tal some­where. “On one of our tours a mem­ber of the group be­came se­ri­ously ill with malaria. We weren’t, how­ever, in a malaria zone and no­body ex­pected it. It turned out that he trav­elled in a malaria zone a week ear­lier. In nor­mal cir­cum­stances he would have been able to re­ceive treat­ment in a lo­cal hos­pi­tal but be­cause we weren’t in a malaria zone, none of the med­i­cal cen­tres were equipped for it. We even­tu­ally had to fly him out of the coun­try for treat­ment.

Money in the (emer­gency)bank

Ber­tus’s ad­vice to trav­ellers is to have an emer­gency fund for an air am­bu­lance ser­vice and so avoid the rig­ma­role of med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion. “We of­ten man­age the med­i­cal ser­vices cov­er­age for mo­tor­bike tours. I then al­ways sug­gest that the mem­bers of the group all give us an amount of money. If you’re a con­voy of 10 to 15 peo­ple and every­one gives R10 000, we have a de­cent amount to get an aero­plane in the sky if need be. Then we don’t have to wait for the peo­ple’s med­i­cal in­sur­ers to give per­mis­sion – we can al­most im­me­di­ately be in the sky and later, when the emer­gency sit­u­a­tion is over, we can sort out the fi­nances. Con­tact Ber­tus Prinsloo and Ae­ro­care at 082 555 8222 or 082 880 8539

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