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DIALOGUE: Ensuring International-Standard Healthcare in China - Bertus Pretorius, General Manager of International SOS’s Chinese clinics
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Based in Beijing, Bertus Pretorius is the General Manager of the clinics in China for International SOS, a multinational company providing medical and sercurity support to organisations with activities and operations globally. Pretorius has been part of International SOS since 2004 as Director of Clinics in China, and oversees their activities in Beijing, Tianjin, Tianjin-TEDA, Nanjing, and Shenzhen. During his tenure, he opened the TEDA clinic, making it the fifth one in the country, and he has grown the China clinic business to the largest within the International SOS Group. Our editorial team talked to him about his position and the relevance of his company’s work in China and our local Tianjin community.


Tell us about your role at International SOS.

As the General Manager of our clinics in China, I am responsible for the operations of all our clinics across China. I am not a clinician, my background is more in business administration and as such I see the main focus of my role as supporting our exceptional clinic teams.

The clinics are a key part of our business and many of our clients also see them as a critical part of their support structure for their investments in China. We place a very strong emphasis on service and our medical and support teams work diligently to ensure that our clients and patients get the best possible medical care.

A large part of what I do is to provide the clinics with the tools they need to give our clients and patients the best possible service in each of their locations. All International SOS clinics in China are ISO 9001 certified, which means that our process, facilities and services are of the highest international quality standards. I think the achievement of this certification really illustrates our commitment to high quality service and to our clients.


Give us an insight into the work your organisation does.

International SOS’ mission is to look after the needs of our clients and their demand for international-standard healthcare. We do this through our Assistance Centres, our clinics and our provider network.

We have been in China since the late 80’s and have an in-depth knowledge of the healthcare system in China. We have also established an extensive network of providers who help us support our clients. Today we employ over 650 people in China, more than half of which are medical professionals.

Health risks in China can vary based on location and these risks need to be recognised and managed. One of the fundamental things that we do for our clients is provide them information and guidance. We can advise which hospital to go to, which doctors to see, we can arrange appointments, help with translation and also accompany patients. We have a 24/7 assistance centre that directly connects to the other 27 assistance centres we operate globally and we provide on-site medical services on 32 client sites in China. 

Our security services provide our members with support in the event of a security issue. From a lost passport to a natural disaster, through our assistance centres members can get advice, emergency translation and logistical aid.

At our clinics, we provide high quality international standards of healthcare that you would expect abroad. In Tianjin we operate two clinics for the benefit of our members; one in downtown Tianjin and one in the economic development area (TEDA).


How can Tianjin expats benefit from the services International SOS offers here?

The Tianjin and TEDA Clinics are a fully integrated part of our worldwide assistance capabilities. This means that our clinic and therefore our patients have full access to the resources of International SOS globally.

So, if a patient needs a particular language supported that we don’t speak in Tianjin, we can reach out globally to arrange a translator from our other assistance centres. Our doctors in Tianjin can reach out to our 1,200 physicians worldwide for a second opinion or advice on a particularly obscure medical condition. Though our comprehensive international network, our patients in China have access to an unparalleled system of doctors, hospitals and providers to support their medical needs.




Why should people choose your company?

International SOS has the strongest presence in China of any global assistance company. With offices and clinics around the country, a dedicated air ambulance, as well as the Beijing and Hong Kong assistance centres, International SOS has the infrastructure and resources in place to provide effective, practical and informed medical and security advice and support in China. 

International SOS provides a comprehensive, integrated medical and security assistance solution. Together with our travel tracking and online services, we are able to support our clients throughout the travel and expatriation process of their staff. From providing pre-travel advice to employees before they leave their home countries; to over the phone support when they are in need; to tracking, locating and assisting in the event of a crisis or natural disaster. International SOS provides continuous support and care from before they depart until they are safely home.

Our global presence and local knowledge combined with our network of professionals enables us to protect our members and offer them help and support wherever they may be in the world.


What makes your staff the edge within the industry?

At International SOS we place strong emphasis on people. I think what really gives our staff the edge is not only that we have an outstanding team, but also the level of support we get from International SOS. From ongoing training to regular meetings with peers to discuss best practices around the world, International SOS staff are confident in their capabilities and the capabilities of our teams globally to support our patients as they need.

Globally International SOS has over 4,800 medical professionals including highly-trained physicians, medics, nurses, and medical consultants who provide medical care, assistance, diagnosis, and referrals at our assistance centres, on client sites and our clinics. With this support we are able to match the development and demands of our clinic markets in our clinic teams. Whether it is a French speaking doctor, or a Japanese speaking nurse, we can arrange the medical support that the market demands.


Can you tell our readers about some of the schemes your company offers that are particularly valuable to members of Tianjin’s international community and their families?

In Tianjin our two clinics provide international-standard healthcare to our members. These clinics are staffed by foreign and national doctors, bi-lingual nurses, and have an international standard pharmacy. Members are also supported by our global 24 hour emergency assistance platform that allows them to speak to a doctor anytime, day or night for routine advice, or emergency support.

The clinic runs regular informational seminars for the community discussing topics like preparing for emergencies, the recent H7N9 outbreak, or pollution and the health effects. We also can provide certified first aid training courses in English or Chinese. 

Business Tianjin speaks with Bertus Pretorius, General Manager of International SOS’s Chinese clinics
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