By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anastasia Puscian, NMCSD Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Located 64 miles north of San Diego, Branch Health Clinic (BHC) San Clemente is the only medical and emergency service available on the 22 mile long island.
BHC San Clemente is unique in that it is not billeted for a medical officer, therefore all medical care is supported by hospital corpsmen. Currently five corpsmen staff the clinic and ensure all 400 personnel (military and civilian) that are assigned and train on the island receive the best medical care possible.
Along with providing routine medical care to the 100 patients they treat on an average month, the clinic works like any other clinic performing various health care administrative physicals, records keeping, unit readiness, special tests and follow-on patient care needs. They also provide medical support for events such as live fire exercises, weapons-testing, biology surveys and respond to all 911 calls and all aircraft in-flight emergencies (military and civilian). The clinic also maintains a well stocked pharmacy and has emergency capabilities on the island (i.e. crash chart with Automatic External Defibrillator). The only service the clinic does not provide is routine or emergency dental care.
All five of the hospital corpsmen assigned to BHC San Clemente, are designated with specialized medical Navy Enlisted Classifications (NEC): three Independent Duty Corpsman and two Fleet Marine Force. These NECs allow the staff to work on an independent basis without the need for direct supervision of a medical officer.
“Between the five of us we have a vast medical knowledge base and a lot of experience, not having a medical officer in the clinic isn’t a problem,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Keith Eten, leading chief petty officer, BHC San Clemente. “If we have a question, we have the reassurance of calling Naval Medical Center San Diego or other branch health clinics that have a specialist to answer our questions, confirm a diagnosis or suggest an alternative treatment.
Since the clinic falls under Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), the clinic has direct communication with the Emergency Room. If all communication were lost on the island, the clinic is equipped with a satellite phone to ensure the staff is always able to contact NMCSD for assistance.
BHC San Clemente is one of nine NMCSD clinics that have the ability to provide Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), which is the set of clinical interventions for the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest and other life-threatening medical emergencies. Clinic staff have extensive training and the ability to manage significant trauma to include advanced airway, hemorrhage control, age initiate IV access, read and interpret electrocardiograms, and administer emergency pharmaceuticals. If there is an emergency that cannot be stabilized and treated at the clinic, assistance is requested through Mercy Air or the Coast Guard for transfer to NMCSD or best available facility.
The staff live and work in the clinic on a eight day on, six day off rotation schedule. While on the island, the clinic is manned at all times due to the corpsmen being the primary responders for the 911 system and any aircraft declaring an in-flight emergency, they rarely travel more than a couple hundred yards from the clinic.
The only way to arrive and depart from the island is by air. Sometimes getting home can be difficult especially if there is bad weather.
“The best thing about working at the BHC San Clemente Island is the staff,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Colin Anderson. “I also work in the same office as my senior corpsman, chief and senior chief. It helps facilitate a more thorough explanation and dialog about Navy policies, and any other issues that affect a Sailor's life. Active and passive leadership development occurs throughout the day. This is what I imagine the MCPON refers to when he mentions "deck-plate leadership," and this is what I value the most.”
For more information about Naval Medical Center San Diego visit:http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Pages/default.aspx