By Emily King

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it for the time being. As people stay at home much more and socially distancing, this causes changes in many employment situations. The spread of COVID-19 brings new challenges for employers who need to keep their workforce strong and healthy. The field of occupational medicine has become more critical than ever to help achieve this.

Occupational medicine is a medical specialty that treats employees that have been sick or injured on the job site. Doctors partner with employers and companies to provide excellent urgent and subacute care for their employees. They also perform surveillance for worksite exposures, ensure compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, evaluate and provide clearance for company-specific job positions. They offer examinations required by government regulations for jobs like firefighters and drivers. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the services that occupational medicine doctors provide.

As with most facets of healthcare, occupational medicine has had to develop procedures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic quickly. The biggest concern is preventing the spread of the virus within the workplace.

“We follow the rules created by the Center for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health,” says Dr. Scott Leslie. He currently serves as the Medical Director at WHS Occupational Medicine. His office also regularly reviews any changes to the recommendations. The clinics follow a specific protocol that requires employees to quarantine or isolate after being exposed to a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive person. They get employees back to work while making sure it is healthy and safe to do so.

Like many medical practices, Dr. Leslie is focusing on providing telehealth visits when appropriate, to prevent the spread of the virus. “This has also provided the ancillary benefit of providing non-COVID related visits to jobsites where it may not be geographically feasible to be physically present at our clinics,” he says.

WHS uses a Virtual Employer Portal that streamlines communication between doctors and employers. Employers get immediate access to work-related documents, especially employees’ clearances to work.

“This platform is beneficial for employees, as well. All work related clearances are sent electronically to their employer and the employee’s private health information is respected in terms of HIPAA. Only their work specific information is provided to their employer,” says Dr. Leslie.

The benefit of occupational medicine to employers is immeasurable. “Having Occupational Medicine Center in my circle as a seasoned HR professional is truly a benefit in so many ways,” says Trenna Passalacqua, VP of Human Resources at Blueprints, a nonprofit organization in Washington County.

“I have been associated with WHS Occupational Medicine for many years now and they serve as my ‘medical go to’ experts on so many work-related issues and their responsiveness and attentiveness is priceless. Especially now, with COVID-19 overwhelming all employers with unlimited circumstances and events, Occupational Medicine is available for consultation, testing and overall good sound medical advice,” she says.

“Dr. Leslie and his team are ready and willing to tackle work related medical concerns and they understand the operational needs of the employer. In my book, you can’t operate a business or HR unit without Occupational Medicine Center in your corner.”

For more information about occupational medicine, contact Washington Health System at 724-223-3528 or visit whsoccmed.org.

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