200,000 up for UK Clubs Medical Examination Scheme

The UK P&I Club’s Pre-Employment Medical Examination Programme has just processed its 200,000th examinee. Dennis U. Baclay, a 34-year-old Filipino, met the Programme’s exacting standards at the SuperCare Medical Service Clinic in Manila on January 13th. He was put forward by manning agents Philippine Transmarine Carriers on behalf of UK Club member Rizzo-Bottiglieri-De Carlini Amatori. Mr. Baclay will serve aboard the Michele Bottiglieri as chief cook. The UK Club’s Programme assesses whether crew candidates are suffering from any disease or disorder likely to render them unfit for service at sea or endanger the health of others. The Supercare clinic is one of only eight accredited by the UK P & I Club in the Philippines, having joined the PEME Programme in 2007. It has carried out over 1200 examinations on UK Club members' crew, failing nearly eight per cent of candidates. Most countries insist on a valid medical certificate to enable a seafarer to obtain an exit visa for an assignment on a foreign ocean-going ship. In the mid-1990s, however, the minimum standards laid down by some did not provide a comprehensive medical screening. Further, the UK Club was then experiencing rising numbers and size of large crew claims with substantial outlays for repatriation, medical bills and crew substitution. An investigation into the conduct of pre-employment medicals in the Philippines found dishonesty on the part of some clinics and examinees and evidence indicating that some repatriations were due to pre-existing medical problems. Consequently, the UK Club launched a pilot scheme in the Philippines in 1996. Significantly higher examination standards were based on the ILO Guidelines for conducting pre-sea and periodic medical fitness examinations for seafarers and Merchant Shipping Notice MSN 1765 (M). The experiment evolved into the UK Club’s worldwide Pre-Employment Medical Examination Programme. The number of completed examinations increased massively from only 539 in 1996 to 85,466 in 2004, passing 100,000 in the following year. Since then, it has doubled. The overall rejection rate has come down from 10 per cent in 1997 to just under five per cent in 2004/06 and around 3.5 per cent today. The main reasons for unfitness have been Hepatitis B, hearing defects, hypertension, abnormal liver function, pulmonary tuberculosis, diabetes, gallbladder disease, abnormal lung function and kidney disease. Candidates have also been turned down because of dental and sight problems, cardiac arrhythmias, heart and venereal disease, HIV, and blood, skin, ear, nose and throat disorders. The requirements of 59 owners of tankers, bulkers, passenger ships and other vessels are catered for by 33 accredited clinics around the world. Most fleets enjoy protection & indemnity cover from the UK P&I Club but there is enthusiastic support from operators outside the UK Club. There are clinics in the Philippines, India, South Africa, Australia, France, Indonesia, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, Thailand, the Ukraine and the UK. Clinic services are utilised across the USA and Canada. The UK Club feels the cost of examinations is easily outweighed by the savings in claims which would otherwise ensue. According to Programme Director Sophia Grant: “Compensation and medical benefits under employment contracts are considerable. Legal, regulatory and advisory measures have been stepped up across the maritime world in recent years, producing rising settlement costs via more generous crew contracts and jury settlements. Undiscovered or undeclared pre-existing defects do not generally affect shipowners’ liabilities towards seafarers who become ill on board. Therefore, pre-emptive examinations play a major role in maintaining crew quality and avoiding financial risk.” SuperCare Medical Services, Inc is located in the port area of Manila. It has a 700 square metre medical facility with 10 highly qualified occupational medicine practitioners and medical specialists performing physical examinations and risk assessment of sailors. It is authorised by the Philippines Government; has a certified Quality Standards System by the Philippine Council on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (PCAHO); and an ISO 9001-2000 certified Quality Management System by Bureau Veritas Certification Phils. for UKAS.