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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
‘Healing our nation’s heroes:’ Taking care of civilian-Marines

By Pamela Jackson | | November 24, 2011

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Editor’s note:  This is the fourth article in a six-part series on the Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany.

Maintaining the health and wellness of hundreds of civilian-Marines aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany is as essential to achieving the Marine Corps’ mission as the Marines themselves.

In addition to monitoring the health of employees who require certain physical qualifications to perform their job, the Occupational Health Division at Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany is equipped to handle on-the-job injuries as well, should they occur.

Rhonda Howard, occupational health nurse, has worked at BHC Albany for nearly 20 years and said the support her office provides to civilians keep them in a state of readiness so they can support the active-duty population.

“Civilians sometimes come to our office for illnesses or injuries that are work-related and can be taken care of here at the clinic or as a follow-up,” Howard said.  “We perform certification and qualifications exams on people who require them to maintain certification for their jobs.”

Howard said one example is someone who operates a crane or drives a forklift. 

“(Those workers) must meet the minimum medical requirements to hold certifications for their jobs in order to safely maintain and perform that job,” she said.  “Our job is to ensure they are safely and medically qualified to do it.  This is a minimum requirement in order to perform this and other jobs here on base.”

Personnel at the Occupational Health Clinic report seeing an average of 30 employees per day for minor injuries, follow-up visits, regular and pre-deployment screenings.

“Sometimes we identify problems during health checks that employees are not even aware of until we have started the process,” Howard said.  “We are required to make sure, without a reasonable doubt, employees are medically and dentally ready to deploy.”

BHC Albany officials say pre-deployment screenings are the first step in their medical evaluations.  There are minimum health standards required before civilians are able to deploy outside of the country in the event there is not adequate medical care where they are going.

Howard said the pre-deployment screening involves an in-depth physical that requires taking vital signs, obtaining a provider history, lab work, electrocardiogram and hearing tests, and numerous immunizations, based on where they are going.

While BHC Albany is not a routine health care facility for employees, those who are injured on the job should report to the clinic for an initial screening, then follow-up with their regular doctor. 

“If a person comes in with a minor injury, we stabilize them here first before sending them out to see their regular medical provider,” Howard said.  “The ones we do send out in town are sent because their injuries are beyond the scope of what we are able to do here. Employees can also follow up with us if they are injured on the job, after hours or on weekends.”

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Goodson, officer-in-charge, BHC Albany, said their clinic is the initial pre-deployment screening facility for base personnel.  From here, they go on to another facility (where?)  for a more in-depth physical. 

“If the employee does not make the cut here, they do not go on to the next step,” Goodson said.  “We determine whether or not they are healthy enough, initially, to be considered for deployment.  The civilian-Marines we support in theater are at the tip of the spear and working right next to the Marines.”

In addition to basic medical care and various screenings, an industrial hygienist who works in Occupational Health performs routine surveillance exams around the base and at Maintenance Center Albany.

Kori Jowhar, industrial hygienist technician, BHC Albany, started working at the clinic after retiring from the Navy in 2010. 

“A typical day for me is getting the equipment together that I need to sample the air and noise elements at Maintenance Center Albany,” Jowhar said.  “I have to ensure employees are working within Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines and the safety standards of the Navy.   I conduct tests and take samples all around MCA to ensure each department is aligned with the required standards.”

Jowhar works all around the base, but said he routinely tests areas with a lot of noise from engines or tools.  

“The noise levels can get high in those areas so I monitor the levels in that environment to see exactly how high it is,” he said. “Once the noise gets to a certain decibel level, I have to ensure that person is wearing proper hearing protection to do their job, which keeps that individual and the organization within safety standards.”

The Occupational Health Clinic manages health surveillance screenings based on job description or environmental exposure. Some of the programs include, but are not limited to, the treatment of work-related illness and injury, pre-employment physicals, worksite consultations, hearing conservation, laser certification examinations, security personnel physicals, asbestos surveillance and specialty physical exams.

Howard, a registered nurse since 1973, said she enjoys working with her co-workers and the patients she gets to take care of. 

“I’ve been here a long time and know a lot of them,” she said.  “The benefits we provide here ensure the employees we see are safely performing their jobs and we are meeting the mission of readiness. 

For appointments or assistance, call the Occupational Health Clinic at (229) 639-5557.


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