Gazprom Corporate Magazine, Issue 7–8, 2012
Mr. Alexander Kolesnikov, Head of the Department for the Organisation of Medical Services and for the Supervision of Medical Provision to Overseas Projects at Gazprom International, answers the questions put by the magazine.
A separate service
Mr. Kolesnikov, the geography of Gazprom International’s presence is rapidly expanding. How is your department developing along with the company?
The necessity to create a separate service within the structure of our company that would deal with issues of medical provision for our overseas projects arose in 2007, when we commenced geological exploration in Uzbekistan. We have successfully resolved issues ofmedical assistance provision for our personnel within the framework of exploration of the Shakhpakhty gas-condensate field in the Ustyurt desert region of the Republic. We then began preparations for the exploration of the seven new investment blocks on the Ustyurt Plateau. We were commissioned to develop a multi-stage program for total medical and sanitary support for geological exploration and thoroughly supervise its implementation. This was a project on a completely different scale: we had to support nine drilling sites located across a territory with a total surface area of over 38,000 sq. km. This situation was especially challenging due to the fact that our main contractors were companies that did not have sufficient experience in the organization of medical and sanitary assistance at shift camps in desert conditions. Therefore, we had to do it all from scratch.
The practical knowledge obtained over the years of implementing projects in Uzbekistan has enabled us to summarize our accumulated experience and develop a set of compulsory measures to ensure the proper quality of living conditions, medical and sanitary assistance for our employees in Central Asia. We have thus prepared a program for the medical supervision of the activities of the geophysical parties and drilling teams for Gazprom International's projects in Tajikistan. Of course, further expansion of the geography of the activities of the company was rapidly expanding our horizons and encouraging us to enhance our system of medical provision for the projects. I would like to remind you that today Gazprom International is represented in completely contrasting regions of the world which lie far away from each other. For example, the company is present in Algeria, Libya and Nigeria, Vietnam and India, Bolivia and Venezuela, Kyrgyzstan, among others. There are some specific health risks in each country, defined by the climate, living conditions, the sanitary and epidemiological environment and by endemic diseases.
In countries where our employees operate, it is far from always the case that they can count on really rapid and qualified medical assistance. It is often the case that the required medical facilities are located hundreds of kilometres away from the sites where Gazprom International's specialists are operating.
How does this system work?
Everybody knows that the first aid provided to an injured person is often the essential condition for his/her survival. However, if we do not take into account qualified specialists, in normal everyday life most people have no idea of what is necessary to save a person in an emergency situation, or at least not to do harm to such a person. Employees of Gazprom International cannot afford such a luxury. The point is that in countries where our employees operate, it is far from always the case that they can count on really rapid and qualified medical assistance. It is often the case that the required medical facilities are located hundreds of kilometres away from the sites where Gazprom International's specialists are operating. This is the reason why we have launched a training programme to educate our employees on the basics of first aid and rules for behaviour in emergency situations, aimed at acquiring the necessary skills, maintaining them and making them seem second-nature. The specifics of the activities of the company require us to constantly update the program we have developed. As recently as in March, doctors from the Training and Methodological Centre of the Moscow Rescue Service CJSC, with whom we have cooperated for many years, conducted the first training cycle this year. The updated course consisted of both theoretical and practical parts: the former is needed to learn the basics of medicine, while the latter is required to learn how to apply acquired knowledge in real life. It was developed based on the experience that we have accumulated over the course of all projects implemented by Gazprom International.
Is it really possible in Moscow to learn the practical skills required to act in emergency situations, for example, on offshore platforms?
For this, we actively cooperate with OPITO (Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization) international training centres in Aberdeen, Scotland, in Baku, Azerbaijan, and in Rotterdam, the Netherlands At these centres we work on practical actions required in any situations that can arise on offshore oil and gas platforms, as well as when a helicopter crashes on water: from assessment of the risks of emergencies, through methods of prevention, to evacuation and provision of first aid and survival in high seas. By the way, we conduct these training sessions not only in summer, which provides our employees with the experience of applying the acquired skills at both Southern and Northern latitudes.
No doubt, qualified first aid is very important. However, does your system take into account the possibility of a disease not becoming immediately apparent?
Certainly. Taking into account the specifics of our operations, we pay special attention to the prevention of diseases. After business trips, especially long ones, in countries which are not very favourable in terms of their sanitary and epidemiological environments, we conduct medical examinations of our employees in order to prevent the risk of development of various diseases.
Any country can spring an unpleasant surprise. For instance, in Uzbekistan, it is common to come across cases of dysentery, hepatitis A and B, as well as intestinal helminthiasis. In some areas of Tajikistan, outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever are registered. In India and Bangladesh, the risk of contracting various protozoal infections caused by parasites, as well as of contracting dengue and chikungunya fevers, is very high. In Nigeria, there is a real danger of catching malaria, cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, infectious meningitis and poliomyelitis. And in a number of areas, even cases of leprosy are still registered.
However, it is not just about the presence in the human body of the pathogens that cause some diseases, or parasites, but also about the impact on human health from the stresses related to unfavourable climates, changing time zones, frequent and long-haul flights, constant use of chemical prophylactic drugs, scheduled injections, vaccinations and so on. The most important thing here is to identify the disease and stop it at the earliest possible stage. But even if we have to treat it, we do so at a very high level – we cooperate with leading Russian and European clinical hospitals, and consult with the best experts in various fields of medical science. One should not just be a top notch professional to work at Gazprom International, but also be physically extremely fit. And our primary task is to preserve this.
During business trips abroad
Do you often have to resort to specific medical treatment?
Not often, but it is impossible to cmissionompletelyeliminate the risk of specific diseases. Also, a lot of things depend on how strictly the recommendations are followed that we provide to our employees at our medical training sessions and before their departure on a business trip. Prior to departure abroad, along with an insurance policy, they each receive an instruction which briefly lists recommendations on how to correctly provide self- and mutual aid in cases of fractures, wounds, traumas, burns, and snake and insect bites. It also describes actions to be taken to conduct indirect heart massage and several methods of artificial respiration as well as suggesting rules of conduct for different situations.
Could these recommendations be useful to anyone who is planning to travel abroad?
Of course. For example, to prevent infection by such pathogens as dysentery, typhus, paratyphoid and hepatitis А, we require thorough observation of personal hygiene rules, and being very cautious about what you eat and drink. In particular, you can drink mineral water without fear, but it must be in the manufacturer's packaging. When you are obliged to boil water, you should do it for at least 10 minutes , as that is enough to destroy any pathogenic bacteria. We also suggest avoiding any meat products which have not undergone sufficient heat treatment. One should not consume milk or dairy products, or fresh fruit or vegetable salads, or fruits that cannot be skinned/peeled, for example, grapes, confectionery products with fruit fillings, various dried fruits or ice cream. Fresh fruit juices, milk cocktails or any drinks containing ice run the risk of causing a number of intestinal infections. Even better is to use bottled water to brush your teeth and rinse your tooth brush instead of tap water In general, one should try to have meals only in trusted locations - large restaurants, hotels and so on. The golden rule on a business trip says that it is better to be hungry and healthy today, than to taste something and become ill tomorrow.
Could you tell us about your most memorable episode while you have been practising medicine?
I am not going to tell you that some episodes are more memorable to me than the others. Every case has its unique characteristics and provides us with invaluable experience that serves to enhance our system of medical provision to Gazprom International projects. One of our employees once ended up being admitted to hospital in a town in India. We attempted to find qualified doctors to provide him with the necessary scope of urgent assistance on site. Our efforts were unsuccessful, and we had to urgently evacuate the patient to Moscow, to the Pirogov National Medical and Surgery Centre. Afterwards, when analysing all of the circumstances, we came to the conclusion that if the local doctors had been able to immediately obtain the necessary information from a medical card about his lack of tolerance to medication and accompanying diseases, that whole situation could have been avoided. This persuaded us to create an electronic health card whose necessary development and implementation had been discussed in Russia for years.
We are in the final stage of development of the Gazprom International НЕАLTH Assistance CARD 2.0 electronic medical card. This USB flash drive is intended for the purpose of storing all documents necessary for medical assistance for each of our employees in Russia and abroad.
Currently, we are in the final stage of development of the electronic medical card called Gazprom International НЕАLTH Assistance CARD 2.0. This USB flash drive is intended for the purpose of storing all documents necessary for medical assistance for each of our employees in Russia and abroad: from data on the international insurance policy number, blood group, Rh-factor and drug intolerance, to the materials on the state of health, vaccinations, medical history, examinations conducted and so on. This is the second version of our corporate electronic medical card, which is different from the previous one in that it has an improved system of information protection and new software. Data can be read from it using any computer with a USB port, using virtually any common operational system. Depending on the region of operation of each our employees, the existing Russian and English versions were additionally complemented by Spanish and French versions. We regularly update the information recorded on the card with the results of medical examinations, and laboratory and instrumental tests that we conduct.
Rapid Response Teams
What are your plans for your service for the immediate future?
Our plans include establishing a Rapid Medical Response Division within the framework of our Medical Safety at Gazprom International programme which would provide high capabilities and provide rapid response to emergency situations that require urgent assistance in the most diverse regions of the world where our specialists operate.
Ahead of us lies the active development of the medical assistance system that we have implemented and its expansion due to new projects launched by Gazprom International. Traditionally, we are among the first people who come to a location where we study the sanitary and epidemiological situation and prepare a so-called “medical springboard" for the arrival of the company in new regions Today, these regions include Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Namibia and Mozambique, and Uruguay and Paraguay.
The interview was conducted by Denis Kirillov