Medical attention on board ship

1:50pm February 10, 2017

By: Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho

          The experience of a Korean seafarer posted by Humans at Sea  focused on inaction of the owner after he suffered an accident while on board the vessel during the effectivity of his employment contract. The owner refused to send him to a doctor despite the recommendation of the captain.

       Under the Maritime Labor Convention, specifically Title 4 thereof, the employment contracts must reflect the shipowners/ employers’ obligations on measures providing for health protection and medical care, including essential dental care, for seafarers working on board a ship which include among others:

  1. ensure the application to seafarers of any general provisions on occupational health protection and medical care relevant to their duties, as well as of special provisions specific to work on board ship;
  2. ensure that seafarers are given health protection and medical care as comparable as possible to that which is generally available to workers ashore, including prompt access to the necessary medicines, medical equipment and facilities for diagnosis and treatment and to medical information and expertise;
  3. give seafarers the right to visit a qualified medical doctor or dentist without delay in ports of call, where practicable;
  4. ensure that medical care and health protection services while a seafarer is on board ship or landed in a foreign port are provided free of charge to seafarers; and

If on board grievance machinery turned out to be futile, the seafareras the right to report to port authorities such a complaint in order to facilitate a prompt and practical means of redress the breach of the shipowner’s obligations towards seafarers’ rights.

He can likewise seek the assistance of various seafarer welfare groups in the next port like Apostleship of the Seas (Aos). Sailor Society, German Seaman Mission, Mission to Seafarers (MtS), North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA), Biblia Harbour Mission and other groups affiliated with International Christian Maritime Association (#ICMA).

These provisions are essentially included in the contract of Filipino seafarers as one of the duties/ obligation of the principal/ employer/ company to provide a workplace conducive to the promotion and protection of the health of the seafarers in accordance with the standards and guidelines of MLC2006. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Employment Contract (POEA SEC is designed primarily for the protection and benefit of Filipino seafarers in the pursuit of their employment on board ocean-going vessels.

If the injury or illness requires medical and/or dental treatment in a foreign port, the employer shall be liable for the full cost of such medical, serious dental, surgical and hospital treatment as well as board and lodging until the seafarer is declared fit to work or to be repatriated. However, if after repatriation, the seafarer still requires medical attention arising from said injury or illness, he shall be so provided at cost to the employer until such time he is declared fit or the degree of his disability has been established by the company-designated physician.

The employer is liable for three separate and distinct kinds of liabilities under the   POEA-SEC for any work-related illness or injury that the seafarer may have suffered during the term of the contract. In other words, employers must: (1) provide   medical treatment to the seafarer at their cost; (b) pay the seafarer sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage  and (2) compensate the seafarer for his permanent total or partial disability as finally determined by the company-designated physician.

The actuations of the company , gross negligence leading to serious injury or illness or death of the worker, can be considered  a ground for disciplinary action, for which it can be given the maximum penalty of permanent disqualification and delisting from the roster of accredited principals/employers.

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