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Tue 18 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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Medical matters

Face to face with Dr Phil Sharples, medical manager at Frontier Medical.

What makes up a typical day for a medic working in the oil and gas industry - on an offshore oil and gas rig, for example?

In terms of day-to-day provision, there are obviously different challenges posed by different environments. Working onshore our medics or medical teams are often involved with providing complete medical services for an oil and gas installation including healthcare for local communities, training or assisting with the development of healthcare infrastructure.

Recent research has highlighted that the average age of an offshore worker is now over 50 with most either older than 50, or younger than 26.

This is clearly different from the challenges facing a medic on a seismic vessel, who are responsible for the medical care of a crew working more than a day away from any other back-up or any form of mainstream medical support.

Is there a high demand for Medics to work within the oil and gas industry?

There is a clear requirement for high quality services both for short term and long term projects and activities in remote or hazardous environments. The oil and gas industry sets, expects and achieves high standards in terms of health and safety and employee welfare.

There is consequently considerable demand for specialist personnel who cannot just satisfy essential medical requirements but also use their expertise and experience to enhance the whole operation.

Does Frontier Medical have difficulty in finding new members of staff?

No. We process more than 100 new CVs from applicants every week, although not all those who apply will have the aptitude and skills needed for this type of remote site medical provision.

Although many doctors, nurses or medics may have the necessary medical skills, we have to be sure they will be able to deliver the necessary standard of care without their usual support structures and away from the context of their normal environment.

Where does Frontier Medical recruit their members of staff?

We recruit globally to reflect our global client base. We have personnel ranging from ambulance medics to neuro-surgeons recruited from more than 70 countries around the world including Yemen, Egypt, the Lebanon and many other countries in the Middle East. Our business language is English but many of our people are multilingual.

Is enough being done to encourage new recruits?

We believe we are actively recruiting through our internet and advertising, and also running an introductory scheme that sees many of our recruits coming forward on the recommendation of their colleagues. In many countries we are helping to develop local skills and services, recruiting locally and training local healthcare providers, raising the level of health care in the vicinity of where we work.

Is there specialised training involved for medics working under severe conditions, treating at times severely injured patients?

All our medical professionals will have undertaken internationally approved courses in emergency medicine. We also ensure skills are maintained and invigorated, offering medics additional clinical attachments. We can also provide specialist training to deal with particularly harsh or severe environments - such as extreme cold or desert.

Does Frontier Medical work or have experience of working in the Middle East?

Frontier Medical has supported organisations working throughout the Middle East including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, for example.

One onshore project was in support of an organisation investing in a new installation. Our involvement included assessing the medical needs for the operation through an initial health audit, working with the client to build and equip a clinic and provide a full range of health services for their workforce.

We are regularly offshore in the Middle East dealing with the full range of health care issues but also occasionally the unexpected, such as the sea snake, which catapulted on to the deck during recovery of the cables!

Any closing comments?

Recent research has highlighted that the average age of an offshore worker is now over 50 with most either older than 50, or younger than 26. In these circumstances, we now ensure health awareness training covers how to recognise the signs of a heart attack and our medics are also trained to administer new treatments that will dissolve a blood clot and limit the potential damage should a heart attack occur.

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