MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
When people walk into a restaurant, business or lodging facility, they expect it to be both clean and safe. Public safety health inspectors examine these areas regularly to ensure owners are meeting the city, county, state and federal requirements for a safe, hygienic environment.
In order to make sure public areas aboard the Combat Center are held to those same standards, the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital’s Preventive Medicine and Industrial Health department is constantly working to thwart the dangers of an unsafe, unclean environment.
“We’re responsible for everything and everything,” said Lt. j.g. Shelley Griffith, the public health emergency officer and environmental health officer for the hospital’s Preventive Medicine department. “If we can prevent people from getting sick, it means you have a healthy population who can enjoy activities aboard the base.
“It doesn’t matter who they are, we just want them to have a good quality of life,” said the Purcell, Okla., native.
One of the ways Preventive Medicine attempts to avoid sickness here is through routine inspections of all eateries, businesses, lodging facilities and public areas on the installation.
“Basically, we cover everything in regards to sanitation,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Eme Praska, the Preventive Medicine Division lead petty officer, and an Orlando, Fla., native. “We inspect every single dining facility here from Carl’s Jr. to the mess halls, playgrounds, swimming pools, barber shops – we even inspect food vendors who come to the base for special events.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Gacayan, a preventive medicine technician and one of the inspectors, said there are a few critical things they check for when inspecting a dining facility.
“Some of our main hits – the things we really check for – are expired food items, cleanliness, temperature of the food and salad bar, and bacteria in ice,” said the San Jose, Calif., native. “There’s no room for error in those areas because people can get really sick if they’re exposed to things like that.”
In addition to inspecting dining facilities and public areas, Preventive Medicine also checks detention centers, lodging and the Wastewater Treatment Facility, Praska said. They also perform physical checkups for all food service employees aboard the base to ensure they have a clean bill of health.
Preventative Medicine is also a part of Lean Six Sigma, a business strategy designed to eliminate defects and increase productivity, for which they monitor the amount of vaccines being purchased and stored to ensure the hospital is not overstocking, Griffith said. When units visit the Combat Center for pre-deployment training, Preventive Medicine also provides the vaccines to them so they can be ready for deployment.
Another of their duties is to monitor viral and disease outbreaks, and report them to the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control to ensure the health and safety of Combat Center personnel, she said.
“The bottom line is Navy and Marine Corps personnel on this base are on one team,” Griffith said. “We try to support that by making sure everyone on base has what they need to accomplish their mission.”
For more information about the Preventive Medicine and Industrial Health department, or to file a complaint, call 830-2002 or 830-2474.