McFarland brings back occupational medicine

At McFarland Clinic, there are many special types of care provided to customers, some are not well known to patients.

One that is not well known is occupational medicine, which is returning to McFarland Clinic, 312 E. Main St.

“We’re really excited to have that service available,” Executive Director of Marshalltown McFarland Clinics Deb Wollam said. “In our area there’s just a lot of industries that can benefit from the service. It’s generally why Marshalltown was selected all those years ago because we just have an industry rich community.”

Dr. Lacey Wheat-Hitchings, who is the department chair of occupation medicine for McFarland, said by offering the service in Marshalltown, the department is renewing a commitment.

“So we’re going to be doing some advertising to make people aware, again, that we’re there one day a week, and we’ll hopefully be expanding,” she said.

The team consists of Wheat-Hitchings and registered nurse practitioner Katherine Bowersox.

Occupational medicine includes care and treatment of patients that were injured while on the job. The treatment includes physical exams, screenings, physical therapy, rehabilitations and work conditioning programs.

Wollam said occupational medicine is meant for an employee in an industry where any “relative-motion injury” may occur.

“Any of those businesses or industries that require pre-employment physicals or screening, and that would include things like the Department of Transportation physicals or respiratory exams, any of them that require direct screenings,” Wollam said. “That department can also set up flu clinics or tuberculosis screenings, for businesses as well.”

Wheat-Hitchings said occupational medicine specializes in preventing injuries. She said part of their job is to work with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

“So we usually work very closely with the safety personnel,” she said.

Marshalltown has its fair share of companies that work with potentially dangerous chemicals. Wheat-Hitchings said part of occupational medicine work involves helping those who work with chemicals.

“So let’s say someone has an exposure at work, we help to manage those, especially in the longer term, if there is a concern,” she said.

Another aspect is workers compensation and wellness exams. The department does not provide the same program or services for all companies, but offers different things depending on the needs of the business.

“Sometimes they have types of physicals that they need all the time, and so, the volume is different, but if they have the occasional, then the cost will be different. We also do drug screening for drug testing,” Wheat-Hitchings said.

The cost of these treatments and services depends on the company and how many workers it has. The department is also supposed to help companies and employers understand guidelines given by the EPA and other agencies.

“The EPA will issue guidance about various things and so will other organizations, but the interpretation of that, and how it applies to their specific company is not included in that guidance,” Wheat-Hitchings said. “Oftentimes, we’re involved in helping make sure that everything is consistent with the guidance and sometimes there’s more flexibility in the guidance that they’re not able to perceive that I am able to perceive, as a medical doctor, and so that’s usually that’s part of it as well.”

Wheat-Hitchings said the department provides quick and long-term treatment options.

“We strive to make sure that if someone is only minorly injured, we try to manage them conservatively to keep them non-recordable. Unless somebody is more severely injured than that has to be recordable,” Wheat-Hitchings said. “We’re sensitive to the demands of employers and providing care and treatment for their employees in a way that the ER just isn’t built to accommodate.”

There are also some COVID-related return to work programs offered as well. Wheat-Hitchings said since COVID restrictions began to be lifted, things have actually been easier.

“It’s actually been a lot easier since the CDC rescinded some of the previous restrictions,” Wheat-Hitchings said.

As society continues to recover from the pandemic, many businesses may continuing the safety measures initially in place. That is something Wheat-Hitchings said the department helps with.

“I’ve been doing some consultations with a couple of companies to help them establish their guidance or guidelines and that’s settled down quite a bit too,” Wheat-Hitchings said. “Initially, I was very busy with helping our organization and other companies draft a reasonable set of policies for the pandemic.”

Wollam said occupational medicine will be offered at the new McFarland Clinic location, once it has been built.

“We’re very excited to have them back, to be able to kind of restart those services and meet the needs for our community partners here,” Wollam said. “Anytime a patient can get care locally, we’re happy about that.”

Contact Sam Stuve at 641-753-6611 or at sstuve@timesrepublican.com


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today