Flying doctor ready to answer every SOS

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Saving lives places enormous pressure on medical staff. Senior co-ordinating doctor Charles Ng Chi-yin of International SOS (HK) believes that being prepared at all times is key to saving lives and to being successful at his job as a manager because situations change all the time.

Doctor Ng said he and his staff faced a highly stressful job because everything had to be done in a limited time.

'Our job is to save people who run into accidents or feel sick while away in a foreign place. They come to us for help during emergencies and it is important for us to respond swiftly and correctly,' he explained.

'I always try to know as much as possible about the condition of the patient in order to make the right medical decision. The patient is thousands of miles away from me. All the information I get is from the treating doctor on the other side of the world.

'I have to prepare well to ask the right questions and make the right move. Then I am able to instruct my staff to make necessary transportation and logistics arrangements. All those have to be completed in a limited amount of time.'

The worst scenario Doctor Ng has faced was a traffic accident in Egypt in 2006 when more than 40 Hong Kong tourists were injured or killed.

'It was during the Chinese New Year holidays and at around seven in the morning we received a call from Egypt reporting the accident. I was not in Egypt and nothing could be done immediately.

'So the first thing I did was make use of the global network of our company to alert the Cairo branch office,' he said.

'Within a day, our medical team was able to attend to the patients. With our own medical team there, I was also able to receive the most updated information, although I was still in Hong Kong. Without the support of well-trained staff and the global network, the process could not be so smooth.'

Some 30 hours after the accident, Doctor Ng and his Hong Kong medical staff arrived in Egypt. With support from the Cairo office, most patients had been treated and, within a week, less seriously injured patients were able to fly home to Hong Kong.

'I slept only two hours during the five days I spent in Egypt. I had to explain the patients' condition to families and the media. The stress was overwhelming. Without working out regularly, my body would not have been able to hold up,' he said.

'As a doctor, it is impossible not to have patients die under your care. When that happens, don't make it too hard on yourself or try to carry everything on your back.

'When a person is dying, the result is fixed, but a doctor can always make it a more comfortable process for the family and the patient. There is always a way out. This is my approach to stress.'

Five keys to managing stress

Be prepared

Make good use of company's resources

Provide sufficient training to staff

Maintain a strong body

Don't try to take on everything