SEASIDE — Providence Seaside Hospital aims to save businesses and their employees time and money with its new occupational medicine unit.

            Nurse practitioner Tim Lord and medical assistant Staci Card speak passionately about helping their patients get back on their feet and back to work.

            “We want to be partners with business to keep workers healthy,” Lord said.

            Seaside Providence recognized the need for an occupational medicine clinic here, Lord said. It is its own specialty

            “A lot of people don’t understand that,” he said. “So a lot of worker-related injuries go to the emergency department, go to the immediate care clinic or go to their own provider, yet there is a real skill set and specialization in getting informed and working closely with third party insurers. SAIF being biggest one.”

            SAIF Corporation is Oregon’s state-chartered workers compensation insurance company.

            The clinic, which opened in February, offers a broad range of services for employers and employees. Its hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 503-717-7800 for more information.

            Employers who require drug screens can send job applicants to the Seaside clinic for certified testing. Employees injured on the job can be treated there as well.

           

CDL Physicals

            In addition, the clinic conducts physicals for truck drivers and bus drivers. That’s becoming more important, Lord said.

            By 2014 the federal government will require special certification to do Department of Transportation physicals required for commercial drivers licenses. CDLs are required for big-rig truck drivers, school bus drivers and other types of vehicles.

            “A trucker who’s had a heart attack, heart catheterization or open heart bypass begs the question ‘are they safe to drive these big rigs?’” Lord asked. “There’s been some subjectiveness to this, so in 2014, that’s going to be standardized.”

            The increasing prevalence of diabetes also raises concern, Lord said.

           

Pre-placement Exams

            Pre-placement exams allow employers to learn if potential employees are physically able to do the job they’ve applied for. This includes jobs requiring heavy lifting, climbing on ladders and other jobs where there is a risk of injury.

           

Worker health, Employer Rates

            For workers hurt on the job, Card said the goal is to get them healthy and back to work as quickly as possible. Missed workdays cost employers, employees and insurance companies, she said.

            Having the services available close to home means workers don’t have to travel out of town for treatment. Some patients have to go as far as Portland, Lord said. That costs them even more money.

            Getting workers healthy and back to work soon after an injury is good for the employer’s insurance rates, Lord said.

            “When they miss greater than three days, they’re claimed as disabled and it goes into a different type of category involving the insurer’s rates,” he said, “so we want our businesses to know that our goal is closely paired with their goal, and that is to get their worker back and keep those rates down.”

           

Worker Monitoring

            The clinic can also perform tuberculosis testing and provide immunizations.

            And in an area thick with lodgings, exposure to blood-borne pathogens raises concerns for cleaning staff, Card said.

            It’s primarily maids cleaning rooms getting stuck with insulin needles in trashcans, she said.

            The clinic also offers hearing and respiratory testing.

            Lord said yearly assessment of respiratory capacity is important for workers exposed to smoke and fumes. Firefighters and workers who go into the sewers are among those who are vulnerable and should be monitored. It’s common in bigger cities, he said.

            “To be honest, were not quite sure yet who’s doing all this, and in fact if anyone is doing all this. So that’s going be part of the growth part of all this, to bring in a specialization that’s pretty common in the city.”

           

Change in Thinking

            Lord hopes to change attitudes about treating workplace injuries.

            While stressing that any serious injury should be treated in the emergency department, he says the Occupational Medicine Clinic treats many injuries at a significant savings.

            “To go to the Emergency Department is just under a thousand dollars to walk through the door,” he said. “We can do that so much more cheaper for simple lacerations here.”