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Case 11: Recovery from heart attack

Organisation

The company is a European convenience food group focused on the added-value sector of the food industry, and in particular the growing market for convenience and prepared foods both in the UK and Continental Europe. The site is a Food manufacturing site employing around 650 individuals.

Injury

A 52 year old employee (a team leader in production) attended the company’s Occupational Health Department (OHD) displaying symptoms of a heart attack. He was taken to the local general hospital and tests revealed he had indeed suffered a heart attack and would require a coronary artery bypass graft. 

Company policy

The referral criteria of individuals to the occupational health function is as follows:

Intervention

The case was monitored by the OHD. The employee was discharged from hospital after 2 weeks and placed on the waiting list for the surgery. After 3 months, following discussion with his medical team and the occupational health physician, he was considered fit to return to work on reduced hours until his surgery, with weekly reviews and monitoring.    

Return to work

The employee returned to work for 4 hours a day (20 hours per week) as agreed by the factory manager, it was considered necessary for him to remain on these reduced hours until he was next assessed by his medical team. At a subsequent review meeting is was discovered that his department (line) manager had informed him that he would be required to return to full-time hours to cover for holidays. The line manager was contacted and expressed an opinion that the gentleman was ‘milking’ his heart attack and was no use to him; the factory manager was updated on events. If the rehabilitation program could not be accommodated then the individual would need to be absent from work, due to the company’s duty to provide him with a safe place of work without detriment to his health.  The employee was moved to another area and a department manager who was more supportive.      

Rehabilitation team

OHD, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, GP, factory manager, department manager and the employee concerned.

Continued progress

The employee underwent heart surgery and after 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation his medical team agreed it was appropriate to rehabilitate him back to work on graduated hours, and graduated physical activity. It was very difficult in the initial stages as, from his previous experience,  the employee had no confidence that the program would be adhered to. However, he did eventually return to work 4 months post-operative and within 3 months was on full-time hours and performing well.

Detriment to the business

The problems with this case were identified by teamwork highlighting issues requiring attention.  This gentleman suffered from undue anxiety during his rehabilitation program due to poor support from his line manager. Much more time and senior management involvement was required to resolve the issues satisfactorily. 

Benefits to the individual

Updated 2012-11-29