Weathering the storm

A Unisure Assist emergency medical evacuation like no other

You never know when your company-sponsored health insurance plan could become a life-saving benefit. That was certainly the case for Patient X, one of our Umatter international private medical insurance members living in Madagascar, who needed an emergency surgical procedure to have obstructive kidney cysts and stones removed.

When her doctors first informed her that she needed specialist surgery that couldn’t be done locally, her husband (a top executive and the principal Umatter member in the family) immediately got in touch with our Unisure Assist team.

Patient X’s flight to a private hospital in Mauritius, the nearest point of medical excellence to Madagascar, was booked and everything was on track. That is until news of Tropical Cyclone Emnati heading towards the region was released shortly before her departure.

Not one to ever tell a patient that there’s nothing we can do, our Unisure Assist Operations Director, Cristina Meixieira, quickly set to work to find a plan B. Years of relationship building with doctors all over the region helped her secure the commitment and go ahead from a top urology surgeon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Once the surgeon had committed, Cristina and her team set to work sourcing numerous quotes from trusted air ambulance companies. Costs, availability and timelines vary greatly between providers, but what was more important than all of those factors was securing a provider who was willing (and able) to fly in challenging weather conditions with an aircraft large enough to also bring her husband and their small children along (as there was nobody available in Madagascar to look after their two young boys).

“It was an incredibly stressful time for everyone involved,” Cristina recalls. “They’d done everything they could for her medically in Madagascar. We knew she was in a lot of pain and that her condition was very serious. We had to find a way to get her to South Africa, as by that stage her life was in danger.”

With the surgeon and provider secured, then the race to get through all of the necessary red tape begins, Cristina explains.

“There’s a lot that happens in between securing a flight and getting the patient to the airport,” she says. “Amongst many other documents, we had to secure a standard PCR COVID-19 test (rapid tests aren’t accepted) and acquire air ambulance port health clearances. In Madagascar, these clearances and signatures need to be directly obtained from the President and parliament, but the President was obviously extremely busy dealing with the logistics and emergencies surrounding the cyclone.”

Once the go ahead was given and all clearances approved, the patient and her family safely reached the airport and departed for South Africa. When in the air, our Unisure Assist ground teams not only monitored the flight path closely, but also busied themselves getting as much of the hospital paperwork and Guarantees of Payment sorted out as possible ahead of the family’s arrival. They then coordinated a ground ambulance to take the family directly to the hospital, secured a guest house for the patient’s husband and sons to stay in, and even ensured that dinner would be waiting for them when their mom was in surgery and the taxi dropped them off.

“On a day like that, emotions run high for everyone involved,” Cristina admits, “but that’s a big part of our 24/7/365 concierge offering – making sure that we’re there for our patient and their families when they need us most. Our teams take care of as much of the admin and hassle as possible, from the biggest details like finding the right air ambulance and the best surgeon to do the procedure, to the smallest touches like making sure that their exhausted sons had something to eat before they were tucked into bed.”

“We do it because it’s a calling,” she says with a big smile on her face. “We care about our patients and we’re proud of the level of service that we deliver to them. And that’s really what sets us apart from so many other providers in the industry.”

Happily, the surgery was a success and Patient X made a full recovery. Cristina and her team continued to look after her and her family’s needs while she was recovering in South Africa post-surgery, and even after Patient X’s doctor discharged her and she returned safely to Madagascar, Cristina has kept in touch and checks in every now and then to ensure that everything is in order.

The Umatter and Unisure Assist promise to deliver impeccable service, and to always be there for our members when they need us most, saw Cristina and her team work tirelessly on Patient X’s case for more than 7 consecutive days, from the point of securing the initial Mauritius flights to quickly pivoting to plan B when the cyclone worsened, and finally rerouting them to South Africa and seeing Patient X safely go into surgery.

That kind of dedication and care, under incredibly trying and pressurised circumstances, and against all odds, even a tropical cyclone, is what defines our approach – to always deliver healthcare with a human touch.

If you want to know more about Unisure Assist and our international medical assistance services, please visit


  • Interview with Cristina Meixieira, Unisure Assist Operations Director, 13 September 2022.