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Utility Navigation

Medical Care While Underway

OMAO ships are staffed, trained, and equipped to respond to urgent and emergent medical issues. Ships are not staffed or equipped to manage chronic medical issues because persons with chronic issues that cannot be safely managed at sea are not medically cleared to sail by the Marine Medicine Branch (MMB). Crew members, scientists and contractors are required to inform the MMB of chronic medical issues and the medications used to manage them during the medical clearance process. Person with chronic medical issues that have been medically cleared to sail by the MMB are expected to manage these issues independently and to bring enough medication to cover their time at sea. 

Employees that routinely take over-the-counter (OTC) medications to manage recurrent symptoms; such as muscle soreness, headache, cough, or allergies, should bring a sufficient supply of the OTC medication to manage these recurrent symptoms. Ships are supplied with a limited variety of OTC medications that MPICs and USPHS medical officers can dispense in small amounts for occasional symptom management.

All OMAO ships carry the medications, medical supplies, and equipment needed to respond to urgent and emergency medical issues. Medical Persons In Charge (MPICs) are trained to initiate first aid or basic life support care then to contact the on call medical officer at the MMB for further medical advice. USPHS medical officers are trained to provide first aid, basic life support, or advanced life support care then contact the on call medical officer if assistance is needed. MPICs and USPHS medical officers can also obtain medical advice from SphereMD, a company that specializes in providing medical advice to the maritime community. The contact information for use during medical emergencies can be found on the bridge of every ship. Commanding Officers, Executive Officers, and the MPICs and/or medical officers aboard have this Medical Emergency Contact Roster at hand. Also found on this website is information regarding Search and Rescue and Poison Control.

You are here: https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/headquarters/office-health-services/marine-medicine/medical-care-while-underway
Reviewed: February 3, 2021. Contact us with page issues.

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