Welcoming Robert de Vries to the EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation team

This week we’re delighted to welcome a new face to EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation – Robert De Vries is joining the team as our new international Liaison Consultant. Robert is a highly-respected former diplomat who has served with the Dutch foreign ministry in many different locations around the world. We talked to him about his experience, his background, and what he’ll be doing here at EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation.

Welcoming robert de vries

Robert, it’s great to have you on board – tell us about your new role with EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation…

Thank you – it’s nice to be part of the team! I’ll be working with EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation as an intermediary, which basically means introducing new people and organisations to EMS’s work and services around the world, and generally raising awareness about what the company does so well.

Will you be focusing on a particular region?

Not necessarily. Later this month, I’ll be travelling with CEO Gerrit Vrieze to visit EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation’s new base in the United Arab Emirates, which serves the Gulf Region, including Dubai, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. But I’ll likely be working in other places as well. In that sense, the role feels very familiar – in my former career I was posted to a lot of different countries, so I’m used to working within very different cultures and customs.

You have an interesting career background – can you tell us a bit more about it?

Absolutely. I’ve enjoyed a very long career as a diplomat. I retired from service earlier this year, but for over 40 years I worked for the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in different positions in diplomatic missions. It was a job that took me everywhere from Belgium and Bulgaria to India, Austria, Jamaica, the Gulf Region – to name just a few. My last posting was in Morocco, where I was the Dutch consul. Before that I worked in Taipei, Taiwan.

What did your work as a consul involve?

It was essentially rendering consular assistance to Dutch people abroad when they needed it. That might mean helping Dutch people who had been detained, for example, or who’d been involved in an accident. I was also involved with issuing visas and Dutch travel documents as well as with repatriating countrymen and so on. Ultimately, it was about assisting people and trying to make life better for them. That was really fulfilling.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your former career?

I’d have to say the COVID pandemic – that’s probably the biggest consular event I’ve ever worked on. During the pandemic Morocco closed its airspace, the ferry connections and the land borders. So, I and a team of embassy colleagues were involved in repatriating Dutch citizens and helping people who were asking for assistance from the Netherlands authorities. It was a major task, not just for the Netherlands of course but for also for embassies of other countries in Morocco.

What do you think is important when it comes to repatriating people?

You and the entire team involved with repatriating need to be really organised, first of all. Repatriation has many different aspects, such as securing the right permissions from the local authorities and making sure the transport to the airport runs smoothly, obtaining landing clearance for ambulance and other special flights and so on. But it’s also about providing reassurance for the people who will be repatriated and their family. When you know that you’ve contributed to someone getting safely back home, that’s a great feeling.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I’m not the sort of person who easily gets bored! I like singing. I’m an amateur baritone; in fact, I had a little musical training while I was serving in St Petersburg (not that I’m ever likely to be invited into the opera houses!). I also like classical music, photography, cycling, walking, cooking and reading. And not to forget travelling.

How many countries have you visited around the world?

I’m not sure! I’ve been to so many different places. I like the Middle East very much. My partner comes from Iran originally, so that’s a special region for me in some ways. I also love the Far East – I was posted in Taiwan and from there I have visited Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. However, I also enjoy visiting the United States and Canada. I’ve been quite spoilt! I feel more or less at home anywhere in the world.

What has impressed you about EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation so far?

They’re an extremely well-prepared and professional company – which is of course very important when it comes to repatriating and evacuating people, and accompanying patients who need help on location. They’re a friendly and open team. But they also have a very clear and practical approach to things – if you have a question, they know how to get to the answers. You know that when you need them, they’ll be there for you.

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