Exploration and production in the Arctic is a proven difficult task - companies active there are all too familiar with its harsh conditions of ice, extreme low temperatures, long periods of winter darkness and remoteness.
Consequently, providing safety to workers has become a major concern for companies braving this harsh territory, and a hot-topic that will be addressed at the upcoming Arctic Technology Conference in March by bringing in remote health care expert, Hans Berg.
Berg is a member of Shell's Health Global Leadership Team, and personnel and training lead for Shell's Global Business Health, UIX and New Business. In his presentation, "Remote Health Care: A Game Changer for the Arctic," Berg will share case studies, recent developments in telemedicine technology, and how Shell ensures safety and enriches communities in remote areas all over the world, including the Arctic.
Talking to the EXPLORER, Berg described Shell's benefits since deployment of a strong remote health care (RHC) model, including:
- Safer and healthier operations.
- Providing care quickly that otherwise would not be available for days or even weeks.
- Minimized costs.
- Meeting medical emergency requirements, while â€¦
- Providing support and assurance to staff.
His technical session will also explain how RHC strategy and telemedicine technology have prevented unnecessary and urgent medical evacuations - and already saved numerous lives.
"We believe this a game changer," Berg said. "The entire traditional way of providing health care in the seismic, drilling and offshore industry always has relied on the premise that rotator wing capacity and local health infrastructure availability would ensure adequate and timely hospital care.
"In the Arctic, however, weather conditions, lack of rotator wing support, the lack of local hospital infrastructure, the costs of logistics and short operational time windows all conspire against the traditional method of providing timely hospital care," he added.
Berg believes his company's desire "to explore in extremely remote areas, but not at the expense of its health, safety, security, environment and social performance standards" is something they share with many other companies with a presence in the Arctic.
"The remote health care strategy ensures safer and healthier operations and allows for virtual hospital expertise and advice to be instantaneously available on a 24/7 basis," he said.
Bringing the Hospital to the Field
Similar to other companies, Shell has a responsibility to guarantee the safety of employees, ensuring they can be transported to a hospital within four hours of an incident. In the Arctic, as Berg explained, the only way to ensure this medical emergency requirement is met is by utilizing a remote health care strategy.
Remote health care that includes telemedicine allows the company to bring the hospital to the patient, virtually, through the use of modern technology and communication.
"We have a particular duty of care to our employees who will be exposed to a remote and harsh environment while working in the Arctic," Berg said. "(Our RHC strategy) sends a strong message that we care about our employees and are doing everything we can to safeguard their health and safety."
Also, he added, "it provides medical staff with critical access to expertise and advice in many areas and boosts confidence of staff members who may feel anxious about working conditions."
Berg and his team have learned this from other successful operations, like the Noble Globetrotter II, which is a deepwater drilling ship currently operating for Shell off the African West Coast.
The ship has been using Shell's RHC strategy to connect via satellite with 12 different hospital departments at the University of Haukeland in Norway. Since Shell implemented this technology, two lives have been saved and three unnecessary evacuations have been avoided. By utilizing telemedicine, the ship's medical team can be connected in just ten minutes by mobile and tablet devices to doctors ashore ensuring that patients and medical staff get the help they need.
Berg's ATC session aims to demonstrate how an RHC model like Shell's can not only improve health outcomes and save money for companies, but also can be adapted and scaled to support community health in these regions, allowing companies to be a better neighbor and contribute to the areas in which they work.
"With increased interest in the Arctic from governments, oil and gas, shipping and the leisure industry, we all share the need for telecommunication," he said. "With investment in highly elliptical orbital satellites, the entire region could be provided with bandwidth at even the highest northern latitudes.
"For local communities," he added, "this would open the door to improved health care and so much more."
Berg and his team see the future of the Arctic as one in which remote health care will provide:
- Opportunities to the local community.
- The industry with necessary skilled workers.
- Opportunities for social investment associated with health care to improve the health and well-being of many remote communities.