Aviation workers to benefit from new specialist health centre at Changi General Hospital

The Changi Aviation Medicine Centre, based at Changi General Hospital, offers care customised for pilots, cabin crew, air traffic control staff and other aviation professionals. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Aviation workers can now visit a new health centre which has been set up to keep them flying high.

Changi Aviation Medicine Centre (CAMC), based at Changi General Hospital (CGH), offers care customised for pilots, cabin crew, air traffic control staff and other aviation professionals.

For example, medicine given to pilots will not have significant side-effects that could affect their job, such as dizziness and drowsiness.

It will also carry out medical examinations customised for the industry, such as vision tests for pilots, as well as programmes for sleep disorder and fatigue management. There will also be help for older workers.

The aviation medicine centre, a collaboration between CGH and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), is the first such centre to be established within a government restructured hospital.

Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, who attended the centre's opening on Tuesday (June 11), said: "With the anticipated traffic growth, we need to provide better support for aviation professionals who are at the centre of the aviation enterprise.

"Aviation professionals need to cope with and adapt to increasing complexity, workload and pressures."

Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min giving his keynote address at the launch of the Changi Aviation Medicine Centre in conjunction with the inaugural Changi Aviation Medicine Symposium at Changi General Hospital on June 11, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A new programme to treat alcohol use disorder will also be available at the centre.

The CAAS tightened rules on alcohol abstention for pilots after Singapore Airlines was forced to cancel a flight in September last year when a pilot failed an alcohol test.

Flight stewardess Jana Koh said the centre's recognition of customised care in mental health is especially welcome.

"Mental health is not usually talked about in the open here," said the 23-year-old. "But I think there would be some issues because of the nature of the job."

"It might be quite stressful for newcomers. So even if they're not diagnosed with something, like say anxiety, it could trigger it just through stressful encounters with seniors or passengers. The whole situation can be quite tense."

"Even though we can still go to normal clinics and hospitals, it would be more suitable to go to them."

No cost was given for the new centre and patients will pay for treatment as they do at regular hospitals.

CAMC director, Dr Brian See, told The Straits Times that CGH plans to appoint more visiting consultants who are qualified in aviation medicine.

He said that before this centre was set up, aviation workers would be treated as regular patients at CGH "with the usual standard of care and with the usual clinical protocols".

He added: "CAMC marries these evidence-based treatments together with the aviation focus to ensure that any treatment instituted is aeromedically compatible."

A spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association - Singapore (Alpa-S) said: "Pilots face unique challenges to work, and some of the most pertinent and common issues faced in the normal course of work are sleep and fatigue issues, and its effects on health.

"In Singapore, there are doctors who are designated aviation medical examiners who are trained to understand the unique medical requirements and issues faced by pilots, but the CAMC brings together the resources from different medical fields to strengthen the health and safety of our aviation community."

An aviation medicine symposium was held after the centre's opening.

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