Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Quick action of shipping agent leads to life-saving rescue of crew member

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2020 | 12:12 AM
Christopher Magnus, operations manager, Jamaica Freight & Shipping Ltd.
Christopher Magnus, operations manager, Jamaica Freight & Shipping Ltd.

Among the many responsibilities of local shipping agents is that of arranging emergency medical assistance for the shipping lines they represent. Though not a regular occurrence, such emergencies do happen from time to time, and there are established procedures for dealing with such a situation. In the current pandemic, however, there are additional processes and necessary protocols that must be observed, and successful execution requires strict adherence to the rules and regulations established by the Government. In this regard, Jamaican shipping agencies have realigned their medical response systems in keeping with the current requirements, and this resulted in the successful life-saving heart surgery that was performed on a crew member of a visiting ship in early May.

Christopher Magnus, operations manager of Jamaica Freight & Shipping Ltd (JFS), was awakened at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 7, by a phone call notifying him that the ship master of OSLO Bulk 6, a shipping vessel delivering salt to Jamaica from Bonaire, had reported a medical emergency on board and was requesting urgent assistance.

Knowing what the situation required, Magnus immediately contacted the ministries of Health and Wellness, Transport and Mining, and National Security, along with the Quarantine Department, to inform them of the situation and to get the requisite instructions for obtaining approvals for carrying out a successful medical evacuation.

These instructions included submission of all medical reports pertaining to the vessel and the particular case, the vessel’s Port of Call Log, arrangements with the hospital for Isolation Unit readiness, provision of COVID-19 testing, availability of medical personnel and equipment, arrangements with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Air Wing for medical evacuation to the hospital, and arrangements with ambulance services for return to the ship.

The vessel was scheduled to arrive in Jamaican waters in approximately 12 hours from the initial notification at 4:30 a.m. that morning. Acting swiftly and systematically, Magnus and his team provided all the information and reports required, received clearance from the authorities, and ensured that all was in place for the JDF Air Wing helicopter to evacuate the crew member with the heart condition. The ship arrived at Kingston Wharves Limited’s Berth 7 at approximately 6 p.m. on May 7, but because the vessel had no helipad, the helicopter landed on the berth’s apron, and the patient was airlifted from there to The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

At the hospital, all was in readiness for patient isolation, COVID-19 testing, and preparation for surgery. The COVID-19 test returned a negative result, and the heart surgery began at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 8. By 7:30 p.m. that evening, the surgical procedure was complete and declared successful.

“We salute cardiologist Dr Noel Crooks and his team at The UHWI,” said Magnus, adding that the life-saving heart surgery went smoothly and that the patient recovered quickly. In fact, the crew member was well enough to be taken back to the ship by ambulance at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, for the vessel’s departure at 7 p.m.

Magnus is full of praise for the support of all the government ministries and agencies; the JDF; Kingston Wharves Limited; The UHWI and the surgical team led by Dr Crooks; and the other members of his JFS team, who all contributed to the success of the medical intervention. For Magnus, however, the best recognition for their service came from the crew member on whom the surgery had been performed when he sent the following short, but profound, message: “Thank you all for saving my life.”