Clinic monitors depot health
April 12, 2012
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- For employees of Anniston Army Depot and its tenants, an injury or illness often means a trip to the Dear Occupational Health Clinic.
Col. Cedric McCord, the clinic's doctor, said the facility sees patients with chest pains and other non-work related illnesses, though he notes they are uncommon.
"With something serious, like chest pains, we instruct employees and supervisors to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance," said McCord. "If you have chest pains or may be having a heart attack, those extra minutes can be precious. They can be the difference between life and death."
Though the facility can provide limited urgent care, its primary purpose is to ensure employees are qualified to safely perform their jobs.
Therefore, most employees visit the clinic for routine physical exams and medical surveillance exams.
A routine physical exam is typically performed on pre-placements and newly hired employees. If required for a particular job series, these exams can be done annually or periodically if required. The sole purpose is to determine if the individual meets the physical requirements for a particular job.
Medical surveillance exams are given far more frequently on the installation. These exams monitor the health of employees who may be exposed to hazardous materials in the workplace.
In 2011, more than 3,000 surveillance exams, ranging from respiratory screenings to complete physical examinations, were performed by the Dear Clinic.
Surveillance exams are only one way the clinic protects employees. The staff provides a degree of preventative care through immunizations given to the installation's mission-essential personnel, security, active-duty military, food service workers and child care providers and they provide training to the depot's fire and security personnel.
"As part of our preventative medical care, the clinic trains first responders on blood-borne pathogens," said Dan Robertson, an occupational health nurse at the clinic. "This training meets the Occupational Safety and Health Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards for infectious disease prevention."
During this training, the differences between the various blood-borne diseases are explained as well as how first responders should protect themselves.
In addition to ensuring the depot's workforce is able to perform their duties here, the clinic examines those deploying overseas.
"Employees basically have to meet the same standards of medical fitness a Soldier would have to meet because they are going to the same place," said McCord.
And, naturally, the 13-person staff of the clinic cares for employees injured on the installation.
McCord said most injuries he sees occur from lifting, direct trauma or repetitive motion.
"We see strains, sprains, and contusions most frequently," said McCord. "Many involve the employee's back, due to improper lifting."
He said these injuries are easy to avoid if the employees take time to use the right equipment or get help when lifting heavy objects. Repetitive motion injuries can be prevented by periodically taking a break to do another task. Accident avoidance can be as simple as being aware of your surroundings and performing tasks with proper care.
While examining employees who visit the clinic for an injury or routine testing, McCord often discusses their overall health.
"When people come in, I give them preventive medicine counseling," said McCord, adding the counseling his staff provides includes discussions on exercise, tobacco cessation and diet modification.
"We teach the effects alcohol and tobacco can have on different diagnoses," said Robertson. "A bad situation can become worse through drinking and smoking."
McCord also instructs his patients, based upon age, gender and other factors, which routine tests their regular physician should order for them.
"Many people who see me say they don't go to a doctor unless they are sick," said McCord. "I tell them they should look at routine tests as preventive maintenance for the body. You take your car for an oil change and regular service; that's preventive maintenance. Why wouldn't you do the same thing for yourself?"