Crewmembers that are unfit for duty due to injuries or illness can create a wide range of concerns for ship owners and fleet managers. In addition to concerns about the individual’s health, an unfit-for-duty crewmember creates issues for a ship’s operational capabilities, its port-of-call schedule, or even its ability to set sail. The Japan P&I Club, in association with U.S. medical services coordinator Sphere MD, provides advice that is useful to quickly return a crewmember to fit for duty status in the U.S.
Communicate While Still At Sea
Even before a ship arrives at its intended or nearest port-of-call, a key step can be taken to increase the likelihood that an injured or ill crewmember can return to fit for duty status relatively quickly. Specifically, is important to seek medical advice via e-mail or radio with a medical provider – e.g., a physician, physician assistant or nurse. Medical providers will describe the best course of treatment that can be achieved while the crewmember is still at sea. Such treatment will typically be relatively easy to implement, such as crewmember immobilization, ice treatments, heat treatments, use of anti-inflammatory medications, and adequate rest. Starting with even such simple treatments will shorten healing time, decrease the likelihood of additional injuries, improve the crewmember’s condition and raise his level of comfort.
Make Medical Appointments Prior to Arriving in Port
If two days in advance of port arrival the crewmember is still sustaining injuries, or still has illness symptoms, it is important to schedule a land-based medical appointment to take place as soon as possible. Such medical appointments can be made by making requests to either a Japan P&I Club Correspondent or a Medical Manager*. With up-to-date information about the crewmember’s medical condition and the ship’s arrival schedule, the Correspondent or Medical Manager will schedule an appointment with the appropriate medical facility, physician or medical specialist. Keep in mind that if the crewmember’s condition improves before the ship arrives in port, the medical appointment can be easily cancelled
Share Work & Schedule Information with Physicians
Before the crewmember’s medical examination and treatment, it is extremely important to provide U.S. physicians with information about the crewmember’s responsibilities. In particular, such information should focus on flexibility in the crewmember’s work duties. The more that U.S. physicians understand about flexibility in crewmember’s duties, the more options they have in terms of granting fit for duty status. Examples of such flexibility include:
- Indicating that the crewmember’s responsibilities allow for light duty restrictions (e.g., 2-hour work shifts with intermittent work breaks).
- Explaining that the crewmember’s responsibilities mainly consist of bridge duty, for which remaining seated is acceptable.
Choose the Right Medical Provider
The best way to avoid ERs and find the right medical provider in each port is to work with a Medical Manager. Medical Managers will ensure that the crewmember is taken to the right physician (e.g., an eye doctor for an eye injury) or to a clinic if there are no other options. Not only can clinics cover the majority (90%) of emergent or non-urgent care, they also provide quick service and are willing to fill out ship medical paperwork.
To achieve a quicker return to fit for duty status for an injured or ill crewmember, it is critical to immediately embark upon a medical course of action. This includes early communication and pre-arranged medical appointments. It also includes information about the crewmember’s duties and the ship’s schedule, as such information provides U.S. physicians with care options. Finally, this course of action includes the right choice of medical providers, which can be selected by a qualified Medical Manager.
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Source: The Japan P&I Club