MEDICAL ADVICE BY RADIO
Ship's operations permitting, the master of the vessel will seek medical advice by radio whenever the welfare of his crew or passengers requires it. Many countries offer medical advice by radio to ships, usually free of charge.
This system is often referred to as the "medico" system because messages sent through U.S. coast radio stations are prefixed DH MEDICO. DH stands for "deadhead," a radio service term meaning that the message is free.
Although the "medico" is worldwide, it is not actually international.
Each country that offers medical advice by radio operates its own independent system with its own requirements. Some countries, for example, insist that messages be in the official language of the country, while others will accept several different languages.
Messages regarding medical advice should be in plain language when possible, but in the event of language problems the signals from the medical section of the International Code of Signals (H.O. Publication 102) may be used.
All U.S. coast radio stations offer free medical message service to all vessels if the message is headed DH MEDICO and signed by the master. Medical advice may also be obtained from any U.S. Coast Guard radio station. Messages to the Coast Guard will be handled either by a Coast Guard medical officer or by a hospital with which the Coast Guard has an agreement. There are now commercial firms that offer medical advice by radio.
Shipping companies may subscribe to these services for a fee. Such a firm will have its own doctors on duty 24 hours a day, and will usually have its own communication facilities. The doctors at these companies are especially trained in dealing with nonmedical personnel by radio, and are aware of the limitations of shipboard medical treatment. They are also usually aware ofthe facilities available for evacuating a seaman from a ship in different parts of the world.