Workplace exchange 22 CF Health Services clinicians tour 4 Wing to learn about how MELs impact units

Christopher King

4 Wing members engaged in a sort of domestic exchange last week to learn about each other’s occupations. On Friday Nov. 2, 2018, civilian and military staff from the 22 CF Health Services clinic toured the restricted area of 4 Wing to learn about the working environment of troops to gain a better understanding of their working conditions and how Medical Employment Limitations (MEL) impact a member and/or their unit.

Captain April Murphy, 22 CF Health Services clinic support services manager, attended the tour which involved visiting the air traffic control tower, 1 Air Maintenance Squadron’s (AMS) weapons technicians, aircraft structures technicians, and avionics technicians, 42 Radar Squadron, and 4 Wing Transport and Electrical and Mechanical Engineering’s heavy equipment unit.

“I learnt a lot of the ins and outs of the unit we support,” Capt. Murphy said. “Seeing how members work on aircraft and what their injuries are, and what their stressors are, was good insight for me and the clinicians.”

But as the tour progressed, units they visited started asking the clinicians questions about how they can keep their members working at the unit while still adhering to the MELs.

Lt-Col. Luc Pilon, 1 AMS Commanding Officer, said that keeping the member at their unit while they are in recovery or once they return from recovery, is important to maintain morale for the member.

“At 1 AMS, the environment can vary from one environment to another and we have some flexibility in how we can employ our members,” Lt-Col. Pilon said. “The more precise the limitations and needs are, there’s a likely chance that we can find something within our own lines that will meet their needs and allow them to continue supporting their unit which is often a positive thing for the member as well.”

The concern from most units on the tour was the impact to operational capability when a member is removed from the workforce due to MELs. At 1 AMS, many of their operations are critical to air-worthiness, which in turn impacts the squadron that the aircraft belongs to.

“I think it’s important to have that discussion as it allows for a better understanding from both sides,” Lt-Col. Pilon said. “We can explain what our needs are and they can explain their side of what they need to do.”

For the clinicians, the majority of the questions revolved around the typical work environment for a member, such as lifting, confined spaces, eye and ear strain from loud machines or long-term focus on computer screens. But units responded saying that proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and workplace safety practices mitigate the risk of injury.

Capt. Murphy said “Putting the member back into the workforce is great…” and it was valuable to them to learn that “…They have different levels and areas in the same shop so we don’t have to take them out of the shop and say they can’t go to work and can’t work in that environment.”
“The communication piece, between the clinicians and the unit is the biggest aim we need to achieve today in order to move forward,” she said.