EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 12, 2014

New clinic opens at Merrimack Valley Hospital

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — If you’re preparing to travel to country where diseases such as malaria are present, need an pilot’s physical examination or a medical certificate to operate heavy equipment, look to Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill.

This month the hospital is opening an Occupational Health and International Travelers’ Clinic offering a range of services under one roof.

The clinic will offer Department of Transportation exams, pre-employment and municipal exams, fitness-for-duty and return-to-work physical exams and physical exams for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Merrimack Valley Hospital will be one of four sites in northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire offering FAA Class 1 commercial airline pilot exams, hospital officials said.

For employers, the clinic will offer injury prevention services, treatment regimens and health management benefits designed to keep employees healthy and safe in the workplace.

The clinic will also offer international travel medicine for people who travel for business or pleasure internationally.

The clinic will be overseen by Dr. Robert Voight who is also medical director of the Occupational Health and International Travelers’ Clinic at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer.

Voight is board certified in Internal Medicine and Occupational Medicine and has been awarded the Certificate of Knowledge in Travel Medicine by the International Society of Traveler Medicine.

Commercial truck drivers, bus drivers, and heavy equipment operators require a DOT card in order to operate their equipment. The card is a medical certificate confirming that the driver meets the medical standards of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency. As of this May, all such exams must be performed by a medical examiner certified by the FMCSA.

Voight said he is one of only five physicians in Essex County offering these services today.

“In the past, medical exams certifying that commercial drivers meet medical standards were handled by primary care physicians, but given the educational, testing and reporting requirements, many primary care physicians are no longer offering these services to their patients,” said Voight, a certified FMCSA medical examiner who has been performing these exams for 25 years.

“If commercial drivers and heavy equipment operators do not complete these exams, they will quickly be out of a job,” he said. “I am glad to be able to continue to provide this service.”

The clinic is one of only a handful offering all three levels of FAA exams, including those for commercial airline pilots.

According to the FAA, you need a medical certificate before flying solo in an airplane, helicopter, gyroplane or airship.

The FAA suggests getting your medical certificate before beginning flight training so as to alert you to any medical condition that would prevent you from becoming a pilot before you pay for lessons.

To obtain your medical certificate, you must pass a physical examination administered by an FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner, like Voight.

For area employers, Voight and his team of occupational health nurses will help businesses and municipalities decrease their costs for worker’s compensation by managing and ensuring workplace safety and injury prevention.

Hospital officials said the staff will work to develop customized physical examinations, including visual, audio, strength, and flexibility testing as well as cardiology, laboratory, and radiology services as needed.

Also offered are drug and alcohol testing. The clinic provides timely results for DOT mandated and other industrial drug and alcohol testing requirements, hospital officials said.

Immunizations and medical surveillance are also offered including for Hepatitis A and B and the influenza vaccine, as well as medical surveillance testing for occupational exposures to lead, asbestos, silica, mercury, other chemicals, heavy metals and tuberculosis screening.

Hospital officials say the specialty of travel medicine was developed to prepare and protect the increasing number of people traveling globally to places still considered biological risks.

More than 1 million people lose their lives to malaria each year, but to protect against that disease, for example, there is no immunization — a traveler must take pills before, during and after a trip to an area where Malaria is prevalent, hospital officials said. This is how Voight, an expert in the field of travel medicine, can help protect travelers from infectious disease, they said.

Pre-travel medical evaluations can include care for routine corporate travel, care for long-term travel, general and destination-specific immunizations, and education about diseases ranging from common travelers’ diarrhea to other serious illnesses.

Other immunizations available at the clinic include Chicken Pox, Influenza, Japanese Encephalitis, Measles, Mumps and Rubella, Meningitis (Meningococcal), Polio, Rabies (preventive rabies series), Tetanus, Typhoid and Yellow Fever.

Routine vaccinations will also be available to patients who have a prescription from their primary care physician. Vaccinations include MMR, Varicella, Pneumovax, Zostervax, Guardasil, Meningitis, Hepatitis A and B, Flu, Japanese Encephalitis, Polio, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies and more.

The clinic is in Suites 217, 219 and 221 on the hospital’s second floor and will initially be open on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. Hours will increase as needed.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 978-784-9328 and select Option 5. Visit the hospital online at www.steward.org/Merrimack-Valley.