3rd IMHF EP WORKSHOP "Management of Emergencies at Sea"

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The Management of Medical Emergencies at Sea


The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 Standard A.4.1 (b) (see Appendix 3) states that:

Seafarers are given health protection and medical care as comparable as possible to that which is generally available to workers ashore, including prompt access to the necessary medicines, medical equipment and facilities for diagnosis and treatment and to medical information and expertise’

On ships without a doctor the management of medical emergencies and other immediate medical care requirements depends on a number of provisions which include:

  • Training of the ship’s crew in first aid and medical care on board.

  • The medical equipment and medication on board

  • The literature available to ships officers on board i.e. The International Medical Guide for Ships (3rd Edition) (IMGS) or national equivalent

  • The availability of remote telemedical assistance services (TMAS)

These provisions are specified in a number of international conventions agreed at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) or the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), see Appendix 3, but the responsibility for implementing each of them lies with national authorities, and it is for ship operators to ensure that they meet the requirements of the state where the ship is flagged. Concerns have been raised among those who provide TMAS services, in port clinics and hospitals who give follow up treatment, and from seafarers and ship operators regarding the quality and consistency of care provided to seafarers on board ship in case of a medical emergency. However the multiplicity of conventions and recommendations and the fact that the provisions for medical emergency management form only a small part of each, mean that the scope for coherent change is severely limited. It has been suggested that one approach could be the development of treatment pathways such as those used in the military, pre hospital care and in developing countries1.

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