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The CERN Medical Service: an essential partner for our occupational health

Medical team photo
The CERN Medical Service team in 2023 (Image: CERN)

In the event of an emergency or an injury, or if you need immediate assistance, call the Fire and Rescue Service directly on +41 22 767 4444.

The CERN Medical Service was founded on 1 June 1965. It supports the Organization in its duty to monitor the health, in a work-related context, of just over 3400 employed members of the personnel (MPEs) and students, to ensure that they are fit for the work assigned to them and that any adverse effects of their professional activities on their health are minimised. The Medical Service provides occupational medicine support to MPEs and students throughout their career, carrying out entry, periodic and end-of-contract medical visits. The Medical Service also receives several thousand people a year regardless of their status, whether at the infirmary or for psychological support.

2023 is a pivotal year for the Medical Service, whose resources have been adapted and reinforced. An immediate and ambitious occupational health initiative will be to carry out periodic consultations for some 1700 MPEs who have not been seen following the slowdown in pace since 2016 owing to medical staff shortages due to illness, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prevention being at the heart of its mandate, the Medical Service offers not only occupational health visits but a wide range of other services. It carries out awareness and prevention campaigns on diverse medical topics of relevance to the CERN community, including an annual flu vaccination campaign. It also arranges occupational workplace visits on request.

Mental health and well-being are among its priorities, and the Medical Service hosts two psychologists, who offer initial psychological consultations on work-related issues to all members of the personnel.

“Collaboration with our Host States is another facet of the Medical Service’s activities, notably for the blood donation campaigns, which resumed in 2022 with two successful events in May and September,” says Raphael Otzenberger, Head of the Medical Service. In addition, CERN receives support to provide emergency care for everyone on site through an agreement with the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG).

A dedicated infirmary provides primary care for anyone present on the CERN site and refers those requiring medical treatment to appropriate healthcare providers where applicable. In the event of an emergency, call the Fire and Rescue Service for assistance on +41 22 7674444. If you haven’t done so yet, please make sure that you add this number to your contacts list.

Furthermore, as part of its insurance medicine remit to support people who are on long-term leave from work for various reasons, the Medical Service, in collaboration with the HR department, follows up on members of the personnel on long-term sick leave, always with a view to facilitating a return to work, where possible.

The Medical Service is constantly striving to do a better job of taking into account the nature of people’s work and the risks to which they are exposed.

The roles and responsibilities under the current occupational health follow-up model and its potential evolution are being further refined through the work of a dedicated working group, which includes representatives of HR and the Staff Association. This working group was set up in the context of a wide-reaching project launched in 2022 by the HSE unit: the HSE Operational Response (HOR) project, as explained by Benoît Delille, Head of the HSE unit: “The HOR project has its origins in the difference of understanding and perception by the CERN community of the scope of activities of the various HSE services, and fits within the context of communicating CERN’s safety governance and promoting CERN safety culture. It comprises several work packages, one of which is dedicated to HSE medical and personal assistance. This aims to analyse the current situation in order to propose a framework that clarifies the operational response that the Medical Service offers to the CERN community, with three main topics of focus: occupational health, insurance medicine, and personal and emergency assistance. I am very much looking forward to recommendations provided and peer-reviewed by professionals in the field, paving the way for a well-defined and clear framework that integrates the lessons learned and new practices in the Host States and at CERN.”

The Medical Service has a clear work-related remit and cannot provide the equivalent of community medicine, owing to legal limitations. The Medical Service doctors thus complement the care provided by general practitioners, who look after people’s specific health needs in a holistic and personalised way and act as point of contact with the national healthcare system.

As an intergovernmental organisation, CERN has its own health insurance, the CHIS, whose main purpose is to safeguard its members against the financial consequences of illness, accidents and maternity by reimbursing expenses arising from medical treatment. The CHIS covers both active and retired employed members of the personnel, students and members of their families. Associated members of the personnel, who are not employed by CERN but affiliated with collaborating institutes, arrive at CERN with their own health insurance. They can benefit from the support of the Users Office and have the option of a preferential private plan with Allianz healthcare.

The Medical Service is thus part of a comprehensive network of support structures at CERN, working hand in hand to further well-being at work and, more generally, support the CERN community in their health-related concerns. The Medical Service collaborates closely with CHIS and other services, such as the HR department, the Social Affairs service and the Users Office, where required.

Find out more on the Medical Service’s website: https://medical-service.web.cern.ch/