Repatriation Stories: returning home from Spain for hospice care

Returning home from Spain

Returning home from Spain for hospice care

If you or a family member fall ill overseas, deciding how and when to return home for medical treatment can be difficult. But it’s especially hard if the decision involves permanently uprooting from a place you’ve known and loved for many years.

That was the situation facing one of our recent customers, a Dutch family who decided to move home from Spain when their father became terminally ill.

A home from home in Spain

The Bakker family* – originally from the Netherlands – had lived happily in northern Spain for a number of years. Until recently, they owned a house in the region and considered it to be their permanent home. Things began to change last year, however, when the elder Mr Bakker fell ill. After a number of tests, he was diagnosed with cancer and started treatment in his local Spanish hospital.

A difficult decision

Although Mr Bakker received good care from his medical team in Spain, by mid-2022 it was becoming clear that his cancer hadn’t responded to treatment and was spreading rapidly. When the doctors advised him to stop the treatment and consider hospice care, the Bakkers faced a tough decision about what to do next. After much discussion, they decided to sell their home in Spain and move back to the Netherlands to be close by Mr Bakker’s as he transferred to a Dutch hospice.

A long-distance ambulance

When the Bakkers rang EMS for help, we discussed the repatriation options in detail. One of these is a long-distance road ambulance, a medical transport that’s popular with expats who are looking to make the trip from southern to northern Europe. Ground ambulances tend to be the most cost-effective solution for overland repatriations. With no airport transports involved, they can also be smoother for patients.

Permit problems

The Bakkers’ expat status did present a problem for the transport, however. Having lived abroad for so long, Mr Bakker no longer had the residency confirmation he needed for access to the Dutch healthcare system. Technically, he would need to go to a home first, before registering with the local city authorities. But as anyone who knew him could see, he was too frail to do either of those things.

A problem solved

Seeing the Bakkers’ quandary, we quickly contacted the city authorities to raise the issue. We explained that he wasn’t in a position to go home because he needed a full hospital check-up and close medical supervision after his long journey from Spain. Happily, they agreed with our assessment and we were able to secure a place in the hospital for him. A few hours later, we dispatched the ambulance team and started the transport. Soon after our arrival, the authorities sent a representative directly to the hospital to meet Mr Bakker and complete his registration. Safely back in the Netherlands, the Bakkers were able to make preparations for his transfer to the hospice.

* Names withheld.

5 key questions about road ambulances

1 – Why choose a road ambulance? A: There are fewer vehicle changes, and they’re often cheaper

2 – How far can they go? A: The average journey is around 2,000km, but they can go much further

3 – Is it just a driver? A: No, there will be a nurse or paramedic alongside the driver/s

4 – What about toilet breaks? A: We take regular stops and the medical team are on hand to help

5 – What if there’s an emergency? A: Our ambulances are equipped for intensive-care treatment

Read our blog for the full detail: The Top 5 questions about road ambulance repatriations

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