In a medical crisis, they provide global assistance

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In a medical crisis, they provide global assistance

For foreigners living in Korea, there are times when the language barrier brings unexpected troubles or inconvenience. Whether going in the wrong direction in a cab or getting the wrong food, trouble comes in a variety of forms. But when it comes to medical emergencies, communication problems are no mere inconveniences; they can be matters of life and death.

One company has made a name for itself, providing assistance in those cases when communicating precisely and quickly is crucial.

International SOS is a global medical and emergency assistance company that has 44 offices spread around over five continents. The company has an extensive network of 100 contracted hospitals throughout Korea.

On Dec. 10, several Japanese tourists were injured in a fire at the Crown Hotel in Itaewon. Upon receiving a call, the International SOS's Seoul alarm center played an important role in coordinating all of the emergency medical services to the injured people. Language assistance, arrangement for repatriation flights and keeping the patients' relatives informed of the injured people's condition were just some of the things that SOS was able to accomplish.

For one patient who had a fractured rib and deep laceration, the company obtained his medical files from Japan and quickly provided it to the Korean hospital. In addition, after the initial treatment, the medical report was secured and submitted to the airline which was chartered to fly the patient to Japan with an SOS escort nurse. The booking of the flight and transportation from the airport to the nearest hospital had all been arranged in advance by SOS.

For another person who died from severe head injuries, the company arranged the embalming of the body and took care of its clearance through customs. The deceased's family was provided with an interpreter throughout the whole process to help them understand local medical practices and deal with documentation and other regulatory issues.

"We take our job here very seriously," said Sunny Park, an SOS employee. "Every patient that we treat is our family and we always try to go the extra mile because often what we are dealing with is a patient's life."

She added that understanding the conditions, prognosis and options of a patient are crucial to treating injuries and increasing the chances of recovery in serious cases.

"We often get thank-you mail from patients, expressing their gratitude," she said.


by Brian Lee

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