Steve Lambert, WHOI
August 23, 2012
Margaret Lamontagne is the medical officer aboard the LSSL and this morning she gave me a tour of the sick bay on the ship. The LSSL was originally a hospital ship designed to bring medical aid to the most isolated communities in northern Canada. With the addition of many airports in places like Tuktoyaktuk, Kugluktuk, and Cambridge Bay, over time there have been changes in the logistical needs of these communities and the St. Laurent has taken on a different role. (The ship still provides medical aid but on a smaller scale.) The main part of the hospital has been converted into what is now our main laboratory and the smaller sick bay is just next door.
Some may call them the ship's nurse but Health Officers at sea have to have a much broader and, at times, a much greater responsibility as they will have to both diagnose the patient and prescribe treatment. They have assistance from afar in the form of an on-call consulting staff in Victoria, BC, but on site they work independently and may have to use some of their wide range of training: the medical officers are a combination of nurse, physician's assistant, dentist, and more and are on call 24/7 from the moment they come aboard. Margaret also participates in inspections of the ship with the captain. The team goes through the ship from top to bottom looking for any health or safety issue.
The sick bay aboard the LSSL is the largest in the fleet but it is still quite small and only so much can be done in case of an emergency. In a nutshell, it is equipped with what you would find in an ambulance, but not a hospital. Best advice - don't get hurt!!