Krones’ Anatomy: The company doctors
Health is always an important issue, but in the wake of the coronavirus, it is now receiving special attention – at Krones as well, of course. While so many things have changed here in the recent months, and another temporary ‘working routine’ has now more or less been established, one department in particular caught my eye as a newcomer to Krones: our Company Medical Service has regularly provided information on the virus, new research findings and instructions on the intranet, and has continued to offer virtual advice. Although I’ve certainly heard about the phenomenon of the company doctor, I was nonetheless curious – not least because, as a Krones newbie, you’re always pleased to get the chance to get to know the company better.
So who is actually our company doctor? When exactly can you see him? And when was the Company Medical Service originally established at Krones? I’ve done some research and I can reveal this much in advance: The company medical service at Krones even celebrated its 30th birthday last year. Well, I guess it’s about time to introduce them here on the blog, isn’t it?
Once upon a time …
“Here is some money, young man, now do something with it,” said Dr. Hermann Kronseder in 1989 when he placed responsibility for the company medical service into the hands of Dr. Axel Becher along with a budget of 250,000 marks. A lot has happened in the meantime.
In 1990 the practice moved into building 0.5 in Neutraubling, which was modernised and expanded in a number of stages. Since then the main site has looked after the Nittenau plant as well. In response to the rising number of patients, further space was created a couple of years later along with a complete renovation – and all that while continuing to provide medical services.
“We had to do a lot of improvisation,” recalls medical specialist Christina Sperl-Steiner, who has herself been on the team since day one.
“Because when a pneumatic hammer is breaking through the wall beside you, it’s often difficult to carry out a hearing test.” The practice now has several treatment rooms, an emergency area allowing rapid access from outside and even a room for physical treatment.
A strong team
At the moment the health of employees in Neutraubling and Nittenau is looked after by a nine-strong team, consisting of two doctors, three paramedics and four medical specialists. The other German plants are well catered for, too – Flensburg and Freising work with a panel doctor, while Rosenheim has had its own company doctor since 2019. “There have been few staff changes over this long period, which is certainly down to our open and pleasant working atmosphere,” emphasises Christina Sperl-Steine
“Our aim is for employees not to get sick in the first place”
Uwe Hott has been in charge of the Company Medical Service at Krones since 1 April 2019. In an interview he explains how he came to us, and what work as a company doctor involves.
Mr Hott, you haven’t had a very traditional career path as a doctor – tell us about it.
I first went down the technical path, qualifying as an engineer and working in technical environmental protection. While I was advising on the environment I then came across people who were struggling with health issues due to gaseous substances escaping from building products or items of furniture. As I found myself increasingly interested in these interactions between harmful substances and human health, I began to explore the issues in more depth and took medical courses at the Free University of Berlin in my spare time.
So you studied medicine alongside your job?
Over three years I took all the courses needed to pass my preliminary medical examination. From then on I focused on studying medicine, but continued to work as an engineer in parallel – at least until I started a year’s placement as a doctor.
To what extent does the work of a company doctor differ from that of the traditional family doctor?
A company doctor has their focus very much more on prevention, i.e. avoiding sickness in the first place. Their duties are defined by law: a company doctor must support the company in all aspects of healthcare and examine and advise the workers accordingly so that they at least remain healthy or even improve their health at the workplace.
In other words, the employee goes to you not just when they have a complaint, but for prevention?
Exactly. If the assessment of the workplace indicates certain hazards, the employer must provide or offer medical precautions. For example, if they’re about to travel on business to countries where there is a risk of infection or there are particular climatic conditions, the employee comes to us and we provide the appropriate advice, and if necessary vaccinations as well. The aim is for occupational diseases or work-related sickness not to arise in the first place.
But you deal with general, everyday complaints as well, don’t you?
Alongside our duties of occupational medical care we also, of course, act as first responders in the event of emergencies and deal with health issues such as breathing difficulties, insect bites or back pain. In those cases, however, we are only allowed to dispense medication if the need is acute – as a stopgap until the family doctor attends.
I am impressed – both by the career of our doctor and by the opportunities for us employees. And especially in times of a pandemic, I find it all the more reassuring to know that I have competent medical advice in such close surroundings – so my trip into the inner depths of the Krones Group was worthwhile twice over.