Apart from South Africa, sub-Saharan countries do not have a medical or hospital infrastructure like those we are used to in Western Europe. Generally, you can find a qualified doctor (GP or dentist), however often the specialists and the hospitals are not in a position to treat serious illnesses. It is therefore essential that with your expatriate medical insurance you also have a good evacuation or repatriation cover.
Your repatriation insurance may first evacuate you to the nearest centre of medical excellence for treatment (this will probably be South Africa if this is the closest country with the facilities to treat you) and then, once stabilised, may repatriate you to your home country or your country of residence, depending on the terms of your contract. An evacuation cover will see you evacuated to your nearest centre of medical excellence for treatment, but will not repatriate you once you have stabilised. You will therefore follow your course of treatment at that hospital.
Often the modes of transport used for evacuation or repatriation are ambulance, train, air ambulance, or aeroplane, depending on your condition, and how stable you are.
The decision as to whether to evacuate or repatriate you will be made by the specialised medical team of the insurer alongside the on-site medical team treating you. The aim of the medical team is to make a fast decision based on your well-being.
Repatriation insurance is a “hospital to hospital” service; you are usually transferred from the local hospital where you have fallen ill to a hospital in the chosen country where you will be treated. Please be aware that a repatriation insurance is not a “rescue” insurance. The cost of organising and mounting a rescue operation will not be covered by your international health insurance, except of course the ambulance that will take you to the hospital.
A repatriation insurance may also include the transport of a relative alongside the injured person, as well as sourcing medicine that may not be available locally.
English speaking countries: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Non-English speaking countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Republic of the Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Somalia, and Togo.
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- An immigration health surcharge for long stays in the UK - Visitors staying for more than 6 months in the UK must pay an 'Immigration Health Surcharge'. Since Brexit, European citizens are also included.