By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs —
Naval Hospital Bremerton’s Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Bangor Personal Reliability Program (PRP) was recognized as one of the Navy’s Best Practice in 2016.
BHC Bangor involvement in PRP was restructured by having all assigned medical officers becoming qualified as Competent Medical Authorities (CMAs). The CMAs conduct the timely need for medical and dental screening and assessment of Marines and Sailors performing duties associated with nuclear capable submarines and establishment shore facilities in the greater Puget Sound area.
“The Personal Reliability Program is a very important mission for us at BHC Bangor. All our doctors are CMAs and have qualifications from undersea medicine to aerospace medicine to family medicine. Those different levels of experience means we can bounce ideas of each other and overlap with our fleet experience. The medical care we provide is solely in the interest of the health, safety, welfare, and morale of our Marines and Sailors,” said Cmdr. Emori Moore, Branch Health Clinic Bangor Officer-in-Charge.
The Personnel Reliability Program is designed to assure that each person selected and retained for performing duties associated with nuclear capable ships, submarines, and establishment shore facilities is emotionally stable and physically capable, and has demonstrated reliability and professional competence.
“It’s a time-sensitive and time-crucial program. The criteria is strict. We work closely with the tenant commands, Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific and Strategic Systems Programs commands. It is rewarding to work so closely to support the fleet and some of the finest, most dedicated Navy personnel our nation has in what they do,” Moore said.
Along with Moore, the BHC Bangor assigned doctors who are CMA qualified include Lt. Cmdr. Adam Waterman, senior medical officer and physician, Lt. Cmdr. Chad Woolridge, Family Medicine physician, Lt. Ronald Fenton, undersea medical officer and dive medical officer, and Lt. Rudy Schmiedecke, Flight Surgeon.
From behavioral health to radiation health, BHC Bangor CMAs evaluate an individual’s initial screening medical and dental record, and are also heavily involved in continuous evaluations. If an individual’s performance is impacted by medical care using prescribed medication or short-term stress, their commanding officer or certifying official is notified to decide if that individual needs to be removed from PRP duties for the period of medical care, stress, or use of medication, as determined by the CMA. The CMA is responsible for determining what information qualifies as medical factors that may affect an individual’s suitability for PRP, and sharing with the certifying official.
“Being a CMA went from being a collateral duty to a primary responsibility for us. Having the clinic recognized as a ‘best practice’ is due to the result of everyone here supporting all ship and shore commands here in Navy Region Northwest,” stated Moore.
According to Strategic Systems Programs Public Affairs Officer John M. Daniels, medical personnel play a unique and vital role in advising operational commanders and certifying officials on the physical and mental health of individuals performing duties within the PRP.
“Their correct diagnosis, treatment, and assessment of the potential effects to an individual’s ability to perform nuclear related tasks unimpaired are paramount. Commanders and certifying officials rely on the expert analysis, assessments, recommendations and timely communications of CMAs in making sound judgments concerning personnel in the PRP,” explained Daniels.
All medical personnel at BHC Bangor help in the treatment of personnel in the PRP, yet the overall responsibility falls on the CMAs and assigned independent duty corpsmen as recommenders to commanders and certifying officials for any changes in an individual’s duty status.
“As a CMA I get to interact and provide direct patient-centered care to active duty members, whereas in my role as a family medicine provider, I was usually only seeing moms and babies,” shared Woolridge.
Daniels attests that along with providing patient-centered care to military members in PRP, there is also additional administrative actions to ensure that every health related encounter is correctly evaluated by a CMA and then reported to the individual’s commander and certifying official.
“It is a very administrative intensive program and we provide decisive critical support to the warfighter. It’s what we do,” added Fenton.