The Work Place at MidHudson Regional Hospital takes their job very seriously.
By Deborah Skolnik
As seen in the November/December 2019 Issue of Advancing Care
Two years ago, Derek Malitz, of Campbell Hall, received a job offer from a local power plant. Before starting his new job, the employer required a prework physical checkup. The company directed him to the Work Place at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) and the area’s premier provider of employment physical exams.
Rajiv Narula, MD, who heads the Work Place and is Chief of Occupational Health at MidHudson Regional Hospital, remembers the day that Malitz, then 23, walked into his office. “He had a big lump in his neck,” Dr. Narula shares. Malitz explained he’d seen another doctor about the lump six months earlier and was told it was probably related to the strep throat he’d had at the time. Eventually, Malitz stopped noticing it.
Dr. Narula felt the lump. He informed Malitz his thyroid seemed enlarged and warned that he wouldn’t clear him to work until he saw an ear, nose and throat specialist. “He said, ‘You need to go to an ENT now,’” Malitz recalls.
Soon after, at the urging of an ENT expert, Malitz had his thyroid removed. A biopsy showed he had an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. According to Malitz, the surgeon said if he’d come to him a month or so later, the situation would have been much more serious. “Dr. Narula’s advice saved my life,” Malitz says.
For more than 20 years, the Work Place has guarded the health and safety of its patients — and the health and safety of those its patients serve.
“We play an important role in Dutchess County and surrounding areas,” Dr. Narula says. “We give pre-employment physicals and annual checkups to a lot of the local first responders, like police and firefighters. We also do physicals for Department of Transportation drivers who work with schools and trucks, and anyone else who requires a commercial driver’s license. We make sure that people are safe on the road.”
Occupational Health Services
Westchester Medical Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 914.493.8580
MidHudson Regional Hospital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .845.431.8740
HealthAlliance Hospital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .845.331.7751
In addition, the Work Place contracts with private employers, such as the power plant where Malitz was slated to work. “We have contacts in every segment of trade and business,” Dr. Narula notes.
The Work Place’s team — which in addition to Dr. Narula includes a nurse practitioner, nurse administrator, medical assistant, registered nurse and licensed practical nurse — does far more than merely perform a cursory assessment of patients’ vitals. Its examinations, geared toward each person’s occupation, are both thorough and “labor intensive, because of all the components involved,” Dr. Narula explains.
When examining firefighters, for instance, the medical assistant might have them suit up in their gear and take a run or walk up stairs, checking their pulmonary and cardiac functions to make sure they can handle their firefighter duties. If a patient is a beer distributor, a physical therapist who works in conjunction with the Work Place might assess his or her lifting techniques to make sure he or she won’t get hurt when hoisting heavy kegs, which can weigh about 160 pounds when full.
“There’s a lot of prevention-based oversight,” says Dr. Narula. “If you are examining a bus driver, you’ve got to make sure that he or she can see and hear well and that his or her blood pressure is good. And if the employee has diabetes, we look into that issue and make sure it’s controlled. We also work with teachers, checking that any potential medical issues they have are under control as well, and we perform physicals on employees here at MidHudson Regional Hospital, checking to make sure, for instance, that they have antibodies to chickenpox and measles, mumps and rubella.” Only after each patient’s issues have been thoroughly investigated will Dr. Narula clear the person to report to duty.
When needed, the Work Place team will coordinate with a patient’s primary care provider and recommend that a patient be moved to lighter duties when appropriate. The goal of these exams is “to make sure people can physically perform their duties in a safe way, without harming themselves and others,” Dr. Narula says. As such, the Work Place also offers drug and alcohol screenings and is a key part of some local companies’ employee assistance programs, offering assessments, referrals, brief treatments and more to keep workers healthy — both personally and professionally.
Malitz is grateful for the Work Place’s dedication to quality. After his thyroid was removed, he received radiation therapy. About six weeks after his first visit to the Work Place, Dr. Narula declared him fit for light duty and then, two weeks later, cleared him for full duty.
While Malitz now works as an operating engineer at a different utility plant, he still occasionally speaks with Dr. Narula. “Every time I talk to him, I cannot thank him enough,” says Malitz, who likes to spend his free time cheering on the Mets and playing in a recreational softball league. “Dr. Narula was great, straight to the point, and he advised me perfectly. I would 100% recommend the Work Place to anyone. I had a great experience there.”
Visit us at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of Westchester Medical Center Health Network, to learn more. Advancing Care. Here.
Photos by Toshi Tasaki