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Thomas Miller launches BlueMed marine medical service

Posted on: 20 June 2016

Thomas Miller Claims Management (TMCM) has taken an important step towards its goal of delivering a complete marine medical solution, with the launch of its BlueMed combined service.

BlueMed builds on TMCM’s unique place as the leading provider of maritime medical assistance to the shipping, cruise and large yacht sectors, by integrating a specialised marine and energy “telemedicine” service to create a complete package.

The telemedicine service, provided by a team of emergency and trauma doctors in Aberdeen, gives both routine and urgent medical advice to vessels at sea, supervising on-board treatment until disembarkation to a hospital is possible, and also seeking to avoid costly diversions and evacuations when these are not necessary.

TMCM Claims Director, Pat Bond, says: “TMCM has worked with many telemedicine providers, but choosing the right one has been a matter of listening to clients over time, and being selective. Some of the telemedicine products have been around a while, but the quality is variable.

“Free radio medical services are not what they were, and some of the commercial operations might leave a vessel waiting an hour or more before they actually get a doctor on the line.

“We have integrated a first-class provider who puts a UK emergency or trauma doctor on the line within minutes. They were working for ship managers, large yacht owners and North Sea oil operators even before we came along, and the partnership with our shore- side case management works seamlessly.”

The importance of taking good care of maritime crew has begun to be acknowledged in recent years, and crew employment conditions are now the subject of international regulation, through the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention. Pre-employment Medical Examination (PEME) schemes, pioneered by the UK P&I Club 20 years ago, help to ensure a healthier crew cohort, while significant attention has also been given to the dangers and effects of fatigue, stress and mental illness among crew.

While these long-term initiatives have done much to improve crew health and reduce risk at sea, for most maritime employers crew health is a day-to-day operational issue. Vessels cannot carry inactive crew for long, and if treatment on board or ashore does not solve a medical problem then repatriation and substitution is necessary. Specialised maritime medical advice to the ship and an expert review of reports from ashore, can help to avoid or reduce these costs.

Once a crewmember is home, the employer has obligations to provide treatment and sick pay, and in more serious cases a disability payment may be due or a claim for damages may arise. Skilled and active case management is therefore in everyone’s best interest.

A whole maritime medical industry has developed in recent years, but most providers are travel or medical assistance companies with little appreciation of maritime operations, crew employment and contracts, manning agency and ship management structures, or the cost implications of passive case management.

TMCM has stepped into this space and has, since its beginnings in 2007, become the largest global provider of specialist marine medical support to ship owners and maritime employers. The integration of telemedicine to create BlueMed is a logical progression.

Director Stephen Hunt comments: “Shipowners are not like other employers. They have a very particular relationship with their crew and follow cases very closely. A crew emergency can also be a major commercial and technical issue.

“Unscheduled calls at unfamiliar ports, deviation from charter, dangerous transfers by launch or helicopter- it is not the same as getting back to work while you wait for an ambulance. You need a medical adviser who understands that context.

“We have a team drawn from P&I claims, medicine, ship operations and management, medical administration and crew casualty response. Despite the TM name, we work with most of the International Group P&I Clubs and the major fixed premium insurers, as well as the biggest cruise and energy operators – that shows you how valued the team’s skills and marine focus are in the market.”

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