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Sanford will deploy two "clinics on wheels" as part of O.P.C. mobileMED that will travel to locations in the Bakken. Special to The Forum

Sanford oilfield health care: 'We'll come to you'

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DICKINSON, ND -- With some Oil Patch workers finding trouble receiving health care services because of various obstacles, Sanford Health may have discovered a solution.

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The line of thinking goes like this: Don't worry about coming to us; we'll come to you.

In what it called a step toward meeting the "tremendous challenge of providing health care in the booming oil fields of western North Dakota and eastern Montana," Sanford has rolled out plans for an initiative that will provide services for oil-producing companies and their subsidiaries working in the Bakken.

"With populations swelling at unprecedented speed, both energy companies and related industries are thriving while the health care industry has struggled to figure out the best way to meet the demand," said Sanford President Kelby Krabbenhoft. "Sanford's approach is unique because we are not just another clinic providing stand-alone occupational medicine, we have the support of one of the nation's largest, fully integrated health enterprises."

As part of the service - which is dubbed O.P.C. mobileMED - Sanford will deploy two "mobile clinics on wheels" that will travel to different Bakken locations. The service also will feature a stationed modular clinic, which will initially be placed in Watford City, according to a Sanford news release.

"Sanford made a promise to improve health care in the region, and this service is another delivery on that promise," said Sanford's Bismarck president, Craig Lambrecht. "This is something we're very excited about. We're proud of helping to bring health care solutions to the area. This will certainly help in the areas of health care services and occupational medicine."

Lambrecht said the service is scheduled to begin early this summer and that he is unaware of any similar services offered anywhere in the U.S. The initial investment from Sanford will be $2.7 million, along with about $4.8 million in annual operating expenses, according to the release.

With a number of jobs in the oilfield being well-known for their physically demanding nature and relatively high rate of injury, Sanford officials and industry experts believe O.P.C. mobileMED will allow Bakken workers to receive care and treatment more quickly, thereby allowing employees to return to the job faster.

"I think this is a great example of bringing quality health care to supplement what's already there in North Dakota," said North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness. "This can hopefully relieve some of the pressure on emergency rooms and all of the other things that this program is looking at. This really targets those hot areas, and I hope it's wildly successful."

The mobile and modular clinics will provide both work-related and non-work-related health care services, such as employment physicals and screenings, lab work, X-rays, referrals and acute care for sore throats, coughs and other illnesses, according to the release.

Sanford asks that employers interested in learning about the service call (866) 310-5222 or email Cindy Thompson at cindy.thompson@sanfordhealth.org.

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