Clinic System Has Growing Pains,

But Members See Key Advantages

 

May 2013

 

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The Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan’s (SHBP) new Health Clinic System has been online and fully operational for only about a month, but early indicators suggest that the new arrangement is promising to be popular among rank-and-file members.

 

As of press time for this edition of the Seafarers LOG, a significant number of active Seafarers had utilized the system in and around the union’s 20 constitutionally established ports. As expected, a few hiccups and growing pains have surfaced, but union officials are optimistic that these anomalies will soon be rectified.

 

“Whenever a huge project is taken on, it is inevitable that you will encounter glitches and obstacles along the way that can be frustrating,” said Vice President Contracts George Tricker. “However, we are confident that once these initial challenges are overcome, the membership will benefit from these new services and will enjoy the flexibility that exams provided close to home afford them.”

 

The recent experiences of two mariners appear to bolster Tricker’s expectations.

 

AB Jimmy Orr, who works aboard the ATB Resolve, described his first time using the new clinic system as “an awesome experience.” Orr lives in Savannah, Ga., and it used to take him two and one-half hours to drive to an authorized health clinic (five-hour round trip) for his exams. Now, he’s just minutes away from one of Comprehensive Health Services’ (CHSi) more than 2,000 participating facilities in the contiguous United States.

 

“This is a big time-saver,” he said. “Let it be known, at least from my perspective, a great job was done by everybody involved in the decision to go with the new system.”

 

Echoing Orr’s sentiments was FOWT Justin Machuga, who said his first experience with the new clinic system “went pretty well overall.”

 

The clinic he visited is “a lot closer to home and everyone was cooperative and made sure that I knew what was happening,” Machuga said at the SIU hall in Jacksonville, Fla. “All in all, I think it (the new health clinic system) will help things move more smoothly.”

 

Machuga lives in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Under the old system, he had to drive two hours each way—not including trips for follow-ups—for a physical. He underwent his most recent physical at a CHSi Clinic in Daytona, Fla., just 15 minutes away from his residence. Machuga credited CHSi for working well with his local doctor’s office and vice versa. “I also saved time driving and money on fuel,” he concluded.

 

As was reported in the February, March and April editions Seafarers LOG, the SIU and SHBP earlier this year contracted CHSi to provide active members with a more extensive network for clinic services. CHSi’s larger network almost always offers members access to clinics closer to their homes for annual exams, functional capacity evaluations and interval exams.

 

Utilizing the new clinic system allows mariners to schedule the exams they need by following an eight-step process. Medical exams are of two types (automated and approval required by the SHBP Medical Department) and are required at various frequencies. The medical exams are as follows:

 

Automated Exams

 

Annual Physical Examination – required no more than once annually, no sooner than 60 days prior to the expiration date of the previous exam

 

New Member Physical Exam – this is a onetime requirement and is necessary only upon entry into the system n U.S. Coast Guard Exam – required once every two years unless the mariner is upgrading

 

Interval Exam – needed once every six months for deep sea members

 

DOT/U.S. Coast Guard Drug Test – needed once every 6 months (unless otherwise authorized by the SHBP Medical Department)

 

Benzene Clearance – mandatory no more than once annually, no sooner than 60 days prior to the expiration date of previous annual exam

 

Steward Department Certification – compulsory no more than once annually, no sooner than 60 days prior to the expiration date of the mariner’s previous annual exam

 

Unlicensed Apprentice Physical Exam – Will become automated after initial HLSS notification of acceptance. This exam, which must be requested at a local port office, is required one time only upon entry into the system

 

Functional Capacity Evaluation – required no more than once annually, no sooner than 60 days prior to expiration date of previous annual exam

 

Approval Required Exams

 

Return to Duty Exam – (repatriation, interval illness or injury, etc.) Required upon demand by SHBP Medical Department

 

MSC Physical Exam – required by job order and approved as necessary by the SHBP Medical Department

 

MSC Shots only – required by job order and approved as necessary by the SHBP Medical Department

 

Commercial Non-MSC Shots only – required by job order and approved as necessary by the SHBP Medical Department

 

ARC Exam – approval required by ARC and SHBP Medical Department

 

TB Screening only – needed upon demand by SHBP Medical Department

 

Members should take following the steps in order to schedule exams:

 

Step 1 – Ports (and eventually all mariners) order the exam type they need

 

Step 2 – CHSi receives exam request and contacts mariners within 24 hours

 

Step 3 – CHSi schedules exams and notifies mariner of appointment date. All paperwork/lab kits are sent to the local clinics

 

Step 4 – CHSi network clinic performs exams and completes all associated paperwork

 

Step 5 – CHSi network clinic sends completed paperwork to CHSi and lab specimens to lab

 

Step 6 – CHSi conducts quality assurance of all paperwork for completeness

 

Step 7 – CHSi Medical Review Officer reviews record and makes preliminary recommendation of fitness determination

 

Step 8 – CHSi sends completed medical record to SHBP Medical Department.

 

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Plans Department Message to SIU Members

 

We have been utilizing the new medical system with CHSi for approximately six to eight weeks. During this time we have experienced positive feedback as well as identified some system difficulties. The following are some suggestions to make the process flow easier.

 

Start the process early. You are able to request services 60 days prior to the expiration of your current clinic card. You can initiate the services by contacting your local port. In the near future you will be able to start the process by ordering the services through your Member Portal account. You no longer need paperwork issued by the port to take to the clinic, so you don’t have to be onsite to start the process.

 

Allow the process to work. After requesting services please wait 24 hours for CHSi to contact you. Seafarers have been contacting CHSi directly right away, which means that the CHSi schedulers have to stop the normal order of things and put you ahead of Seafarers that have been waiting to be contacted. This causes the whole system to back up. CHSi had been experiencing a delay of three days in scheduling exams. In response they have added staff and are current in these communications.

 

Try to stick with your scheduled appointment. The flexibility that is offered by the expanded network allows for you to have services in a variety of locations. Please plan accordingly, keeping in mind that the entire process of scheduling exams through the return of your medical clearance takes between one to two weeks.

 

Expedited exams should be rare. The system as it is designed provides a larger network as well as consistency and quality of exams. In order to achieve these goals it requires central routing of requests and medical records. If you truly have a need for an expedited exam it is best to work with your port official and our medical department to get your needs met.

 

We will continue to monitor and adjust the process as we move along to make it work as efficiently and effectively as possible. In the meantime we ask for your continued patience and support.