What to do if your student needs emergency medical care
In a medical emergency, call GMMI at 1-888-444-7773. As noted previously, GMMI is the claims manager and medical assistance provider for AFS. GMMI will connect you 24/ 7 to their assistance service and help you figure out the best choice for Urgent Care or Emergency Room (ER) services.
In a serious situation, or if it is not possible to reach out to GMMI when there is a medical emergency:
- Call 911
- Get the participant to medical care as soon as possible.
- Call AFS-USA
- Contact GMMI as soon as you can with information on the facility providing the urgent or emergency medical care.
Life-threatening emergencies are ones that can permanently impair or endanger the participant’s life. These require a visit to the ER. Some examples are:
- Compound fracture, which involves a bone protruding through the skin
- Convulsions, seizures, or loss of consciousness
- Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding
- Moderate to severe burns
- Serious head, neck, or back injury
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Suicidal feelings
Urgent Care Center
An urgent medical condition is one that does not appear to be life threatening but still must be treated immediately so as to avoid the condition worsening. These can be treated at an urgent care center which may have shorter waits and less expenses than an emergency room. Some examples include:
- Accidents and falls
- Cuts that don’t involve much blood but might need stitches
- Breathing difficulties, such as mild to moderate asthma
- Diagnostic services, including X-rays and laboratory tests
- Eye irritation and redness
- Fever or flu
- Minor broken bones and fractures in fingers or toes
- Moderate back problems
- Severe sore throat or cough
- Skin rashes and infections
- Sprains and strains
- Urinary tract infections
- Vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration
If it is possible for the participant to use an urgent care center rather than an Emergency Room, that is typically the fastest and most effective way to address urgent medical conditions.
It is important to involve GMMI as soon as possible when there is a serious case or hospitalization. They can establish contact with the doctor, assess the care, review medical documents, confirm billing, and advise AFS.
Medical privacy laws sometimes make it difficult for GMMI to obtain medical information about the participant. In these cases, it can be very helpful for AFS or the host family to help facilitate this. AFS can ask the sending family to issue a “Release of Information” (ROI) for the hospital. The hosting family can ask the hospital if they have a specific ROI form they would like to have used and ask that that be forwarded to AFS.
If a medical evacuation to the home country is needed, GMMI will organize it in conjunction with AFS. If a medical evacuation from a small local hospital to a larger hospital is needed, that is usually taken care of by the two hospitals – GMMI can confirm coverage of the expense.
Who should host families contact in the case of Serious Illness and Hospital Admittance?
Always notify the AFS Liaison (or, in case the liaison is not available, AFS Staff or another volunteer) in the event of serious medical situations or conditions. Serious situations include any type of ongoing illness, a broken bone, hospitalization, proposed or emergency surgery, or any condition lingering for an extended period. By contacting your liaison or staff member or other volunteer, we can ensure that this information is communicated immediately to the AFS Office staff in your hosted participant’s home country so that they can inform the parent(s)/guardian(s) and obtain written authorization for treatment or surgery, if needed.
In the case of a life-threatening emergency when there is not sufficient time to contact the parent(s)/guardian(s), AFS can authorize treatment or surgery on behalf of the parent(s)/guardian(s). The Parental Authorization Form can be presented to the hospital or doctor’s office, if needed. If this form is not accepted, contact the National Service Center at 1-800-AFS-INFO (800-237-4636, option 9).
Serious Situations Occurring Outside Regular Hours
The AFS-USA National Service Center is open from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. To report a serious situation which arises outside of these hours, call 1-800-AFS-INFO (800-237- 4636, option 9). The AFS answering service will contact the Duty Officer who will return your call and assist you. If you don’t hear back from the Duty Officer in 15 minutes, you should call the answering service back and let them know. They will either contact the Duty Officer again or contact the back-up Duty Officer for you.
This service is for emergencies only. An emergency might be a car accident, serious illness and/or hospitalization of your hosted student, any situation in which the police are involved, or any time you feel is there is important information which must be communicated to the parent(s)/guardian(s)s immediately.