Spill worker medical tent treating mostly heat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 10, 2010

GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) — With the heat index between 105 to 110, heat-related illnesses have been by far the main problem treated at the West Jefferson Medical Center first aid tent on Grand Isle for oil spill cleanup workers.

Hospital spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo said a nurse, with paramedics on standby, has treated 67 spill workers since the tent opened May 31. She said 66 of them were treated for overheating and related problems, and many of those patients also were treated for insect bites.

All 67 were treated at the tent and released.

Alfonzo said Wednesday that she couldn’t say what the 67th worker was treated for because that might identify the worker.

The tent was set up after 11 spill cleanup workers were brought to the hospital and diagnosed with chemical exposure.

Original plans were to have a doctor, two paramedics and a nurse on duty, but the patient load has been low enough for just a nurse, Alfonzo said.

Severe cases would go to the hospital emergency room, she said.

The oil spill command said its policy requires rest periods for all cleanup workers to prevent heat problems. A news release Wednesday said the work and rest schedule is based on the heat index, work and protective clothing.

It said workers with heat problems are encouraged to seek medical attention, and emergency workers are on standby for any heat and health problems.