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Medical Solutions for a Remote Environment



An international oil and gas company required on-the-ground medical support for their geological exploration and drilling expedition in Mauritania. Project manager, Javier Artime, commissioned International SOS for the seven month project. 


In just six months, International SOS had to develop a robust operational plan. It had to care for approximately 100 employees. They were divided in four teams spread over a desert area of nearly 10,000 square kilometres. These workers included geologists, seismologists, engineers, and Mauritanian security staff. The location of the main camp was challenging. It was a 3 to 4 days drive to the nearest city or hospital. There were extreme temperature changes, sandstorms, venomous wildlife and poor or non-existent roads.


International SOS assigned a medical director familiar with the health and security profile of Mauritania to the project. He undertook a Site Health Review. It highlighted the project’s endemic health risks, local medical facilities’ quality and capability, and staffing requirements including appropriate personnel profile.

Our comprehensive plan for medical support had five main components: 

  • Ensuring that international assignees are medically fit for work and had appropriate inoculations through our medical screening and vaccination programmes.
  • Establishing a medical base camp with a container clinic. It was stocked with medicines, oxygen, breathing equipment, syringe driver, defibrillators and stretchers. We also established travelling camps with Emergency Medical Response Equipment.
  • Setting up a communications system suitable for the terrain. This includes satellite phones, communications gear including VHF and Inmarsat, and satellite mapping to monitor teams on the ground.
  • Appointing appropriate medical personnel. This included an internationally accredited French/English speaking doctor skilled in remote and emergency medicine. This also meant four anaesthetic nurses with technical skills and the right mindset to work in the harsh environment.
  • Developing a customised evacuation response plan, coordinated through our Paris Assistance Centre. We needed a pre-determined approval process, points of contact and air ambulance/ helicopter providers. We also had to agree on a communication process with the company.


Although we had 300 medical consultations in seven months, no working day was lost due to accident or illness. Consultations were about minor ailments, skins, headaches, and sprains. When not attending to patients, the International SOS doctor spent his time inspecting the site’s sanitation and water supply. Our doctor also put together weekly reports for the managers on the camp’s health standards.

The company’s operations ran smoothly. Having an experienced partner like International SOS on-the-ground, and access to our medical expertise and infrastructure was a great comfort to the company and staff alike.