On my previous post, I shared my personal account regarding the results of my Pre-employment Medical Exam (PEME). Linking similar outcome to other seafarers prove that there is something fishy going on within some of our medical clinics.
My story is only a piece of the pie. There are fellow seafarers who have bigger stories to tell. Some of them spent tens of thousands of pesos just to pass the final hurdle to our employment. There’s no telling whether their diseases may be true or not but the surgery or operation is real. And the cost is as painful as well.
Others bought medicines or maintenance drugs for their whole contract. This can be a normal procedure especially for hypertensive or diabetic seafarers. Foreign nationalities also have similar situations with us.
Meanwhile, some unfortunate seafarers submit to the advice of undergoing an operation. While most of these are legitimate and necessary, there are others who seem to take advantage and use this to milk our pockets.
But what should we do if there are findings in our medical exams? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Prevention is better than cure.
Take good care of your body. It’s the only home you have. Keep in mind that your health is the key to your wealth. When you are scheduled for your medical exam, take proper control on your food intake. Avoid cigarettes, liquor and unhealthy lifestyle.
Passing your medical exam won’t be a problem once you practice a healthy lifestyle. This saves you a great amount of time, money, effort and worry.
2. If your medical results do show some problems, keep calm and carry on.
Your initial reaction, whether anger, frustration, worry, fear or peace will not change anything. Neither does ranting.
Remember what Jesus said to his disciples?
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”
Your best course of action is to talk to the clinic and ask for more information. Is it just a high blood pressure, or an operation is required?
Do not jump into conclusion or immediately do what the doctor says no matter how grave it seems.
3. Ask the doctor about the findings.
Whatever problems they found during your pre-employment medical exam, you have every right to ask the physician about it.
You may get “lost in translation” due to the medical jargons they use but don’t let it stop you. Request for an explanation of the disease including causes and cures.
Don’t just blindly accept what your doctor tells you. I met seafarers who were terrified about the result of their PEME. When I asked them what was it about, they can’t give a clear answer.
“There’s something in my stomach that the doctor needs to remove. I don’t know exactly. I’m not sure what he said because of some medical terms.”
Don’t let these jargons intimidate you especially if you don’t understand what it means. Remember that we are talking about your health here. This moment is the tipping point for your sailing career. And your health will always be your wealth.
4. Conduct your own research regarding the illness.
In every battle, the team who has more information about the enemy usually wins. Information is vital. This also applies to your case.
Know more about the disease, its causes, preventive measures and cures. Is it contagious and fatal? Tell your wife, family, or trusted friend and ask for their advice.
I remember the time when I was diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy. During that time, the physician was not able to give me an accurate information or advice. He said he’s not a cardiologist and he must refer me to one person he knows.
I felt really bad at first and I could not even accept it.
So I made a thorough research about it and even sent emails to heart experts abroad. And because of my own study, I develop a better understanding of the problem. My fears and worries disappear overnight because I knew that the result seemed suspicious.
5. Inquire your network and get in touch with them.
Get connected with your friends or fellow seafarers. Ask them about the doctor or the clinic to which you had your medical exam. Perhaps they’ve been there or know some friends who had the same experience with you.
If they do, connect with that person if possible and ask what they did. A pattern could be seen on that clinic especially if someone’s name from that facility constantly pops up. You should be ready for the next step.
Your friends in the medical field (doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.) can be a source of valuable information. They too may give some important advice.
6. If it’s very serious, ask for a second opinion.
When the clinic advises you to have a surgery, you may have to consider asking for a second opinion from another doctor.
Sometimes, the medical facility recommends you buy very expensive drugs or medicines. It could mean that your disease is very serious. But remember that your liver is also affected by every drug you take.
A second opinion is important to clarify, verify and substantiate the initial prognosis. They should come from another doctor- perhaps referred by a trusted friend.
If the results are parallel with the first clinic, most probably you really need to undergo whatever treatment they recommend.
However, if the findings are different, tell the first doctor about your second opinion. Show the records as proof. If he is insistent, arrange a meeting with both of them for proper discussion.
Remember, your health is at risk so better be on the safe side. You can also consider opting for a third opinion from another doctor. Getting in touch with the department of help may be helpful too.
7. Medication for minor findings.
There are illnesses that can be cured in a week by taking medicines. Usually, these drugs can be bought in the clinic itself.
Doctors may require you to take those meds and come back after a few days for a follow up check up. These are actually okay since it’s just a minor problem.
On other cases, the doctor may FIT your PEME provided you buy certain drugs to take with you on board. Some seafarers argue about this because buying 6 to 9 months worth of maintenance drug is costly.
However, they seldom look into their daily habit of drinking, smoking and eating unhealthy foods that caused the problem.
8. Never resort to under-the-table transactions.
Whether we like it or not, we know some of our cohorts who use this as a “secret weapon”. Since it’s too troublesome to do it the right way, they let money do the talking.
This usually happens if the findings are minor. It’s very tempting too to consider this option.
By giving a particular amount, a seafarer can finish his medical exam by just sitting in the waiting area. Or if he has problems with his teeth, a few hundreds of pesos could solve it. That is only a fraction of our salary so why not.
No need for worries. This saves time after all and the end result would still be the same- we pass our medical exam and we can work on board. Besides, the clinic “gave” us this disease so they could milk us, right?
Consider this, not all seafarers like or want to do this kind of deal. And not all doctors even think of extorting money from us. But by doing under the table transactions, you encourage the clinic staffs to do some magic trick on us.
Soon, seafarers who abide by the moral code gets affected. The image of all medical clinic gets tainted too. All findings, even if it’s legit, will be doubted as a means for milking our pockets.
Other clinics will take advantage of us too. Though not all, they will see this as a means to make extra bucks. Everyone is affected and the cycle goes on and on.
9. Inform your agency.
No matter how bad your results are, take the time to inform your agency about it. They too will give you valuable advice on what to do.
They usually adhere to the proposal of the medical clinic especially if it’s a minor illness. For serious findings involving operation, there is a chance that they will provide financial aid.
Furthermore, their advice is for your best interest. A recurrent incident of surgeries among their crew may push them to take action against that clinic.
But there are also incidents that your company work wonders. During urgent deployment, a failed medical exam can quickly be turned around with their help. These are minor findings in most cases and your agency already quantified your situation.
10. Learn from yours and others mistakes.
Now that you tasted the consequences of failed medical exam, it’s time to take action. The unpleasantness of this experience is frustrating and expensive. The good thing is, you can learn from others mistake.
Every time you are tempted to abuse your health, remember the pain of going through all of it again. Is it worth it? Of course it’s not. Then why drink every night a week before your medical?
After the damage has been done, people usually rant and blame others. They forget about what they did that lead to such results. People hate to hear the sins they loved to act so they point fingers to others.
Remember that an honest result of you pre-employment medical exam is very important. This process will tell us if our body is still capable of performing various strenuous tasks on board.
Come to think of it, what would you do if you suddenly drop unconscious because you paid your medical exam instead of undergoing proper surgery or medication? Your ship is 5 days away from land and you are on the first week of your contract.
Imagine the worst case scenario.
Moreover, your company, or the whole seafaring industry may have to impose stricter rules and regulations regarding our medical exam if this happens. Another “inconvenience” or possible expense on our part.
May the winds be on your favor.