Shortages of medicines when crew changes are postponed

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Among other things, postponing changes of crews has led to staff onboard starting to run out of personal medications. Wallenius Lines is aware of the problem, but says they are solving it through agents in ports.

The corona pandemic has resulted in a large number of seafarers staying on board for much longer than planned, since some shipping companies have stopped crew changes. Some of those seafarers are now starting to run out of their personal medications.

“Seafarers contact us and ask if we can issue new prescriptions, but unfortunately we can’t,” says Andreas Hein, the doctor in charge at TMAS (Tele-medical assistance service, previously Radio Medical) at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. “If we were to issue a prescription for a Filipino seaman who wanted to pick up his medicine from a pharmacy in France, for example, the pharmacy would never accept the prescription.”

“The medicines that are starting to run low now,” says Andreas Hein, “are those for blood pressure, diabetes and so on. The effects of stopping medication vary, depending on the condition.”

“If a person misses blood pressure medication for a short time, the situation should not be critical. Diabetes drugs are more urgent though, and the only thing you can do there is to recommend that the person concerned eats less sugar and exercises more,” says Andreas Hein.

One of the shipping companies that has not been able to carry out regular crew changes since the pandemic broke out is Wallenius Lines.
The shipping company’s designated person, Peter Jodin, says that they have only had a few cases of medication running out so far and that they have been able to obtain new medication in all those cases.

“We do it through agents in the ports. In some countries, these medications are not on prescription and can be purchased in ordinary shops, but even in cases where prescriptions need to be renewed, the agents have been able to help. So far we have only had a few cases, but the longer the situation continues, the greater the risk that more people will have this kind of concern, but we will solve issues as they arise.”

Due to borders being closed and very limited air traffic, Wallenius has had to stop crew changeovers since mid-March.

“But in cases of special needs, such as illness or family reasons, we arrange changes of crewmembers,” says Peter Jodin. “We don’t know when we will be able to go back to our regular crew changes – it all depends on how things develop. But we are in continuous contact with our crews and try to pep and support them as much as possible and so far there is a good spirit on the ships.”

Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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