Article prepared by David Thompson, Head of Sales (UK), Remote Medical International.
On-site medics are a vital part of any remote or offshore renewable energy operation. Yet, COVID-19 has underscored the importance of their role in health maintenance, preparedness, and planning for unanticipated crises. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of integrated medical support, continuity of care, and experience and expertise and their role in prevention and exceptional patient care.
Three critical factors should form the basis of any decision when it comes to choosing a partner to provide medical support and maintain the health and safety of energy workers.
- The medical support company must have relevant experience and understand the various environments within the global onshore and offshore wind industry, for example, construction or operations and maintenance. While relatively young as an industry, medical support companies who have extensive experience in the maritime and oil and gas industries will have a deep understanding of the challenges facing workers in the unpredictable elements of remote working and a lack of nearby medical resources.
- Ideally, the company must embrace an integrated medical support model including consultancy, COVID-19 risk mitigation, offshore medics, medical supplies, and occupational health provision. This integrated approach ensures employees have the support they need when they need it, whether emergency medical treatment, a complex evacuation, or routine health screenings. To accomplish this requires not only exceptional medical personnel, but a global network of healthcare, safety, risk management, and logistics professionals.
- The quality of medical support provided is vital, for example robust clinical governance, comprehensive medical assessments for medics, Care Quality Commission registered laboratory for COVID-19 testing, and experienced medics and nurses. At a minimum, medical staff should have received specialised training and passed an exam with a focus on remote medicine. During deployment, they should have constant, 24/7/365 dedicated topside access to doctors and consultants experienced in remote healthcare. This access is essential in helping prevent loss of life from accidents or emergencies occurring offshore.
In addition, renewable energy companies should choose a partner who has the breadth of expertise needed to help them take immediate steps to plan for both ongoing COVID-19 challenges and for unforeseen future emergencies. They should rely on the knowledge their medical support teams have and are gaining as they work in this pandemic.
In general, offshore companies should collaborate with their partners to develop two types of plans: a prevention management plan and an outbreak management plan.
The prevention management plan outlines procedures to take that can help minimise the risk of exposure. It should be developed immediately and updated as we continue to learn about the nature of COVID-19. It should be implemented at the first sign of any epidemic in the area or spreading toward the work site. This plan is in addition to steps put in place to prevent infectious diseases. It should include education, testing, and mitigation.
The outbreak management plan focuses on managing and containing an outbreak, including isolating suspected cases, testing and monitoring onboard personnel if cases appear, reporting procedures, communication processes for port health officials, emergency response and evacuation plans.
Finding a medical provider who understands the unique challenges of the energy industry is imperative so that medical staff are deployed completely prepared to succeed in each project location.