LONDON (Reuters) - Athletes at the London Olympics will be offered free healthcare ranging from state of the art eye care and dentistry to sports physiotherapy, osteopathy and surgery at a 23 million pounds ($36.04 million) “polyclinic”.
The 24-hour centre in the Olympic Park, where 200 competitors a day are expected to be treated during the Games, will make athletes the top priorities but will also look after support staff and coaches.
The common complaints are expected to be musculoskeletal injuries such as strains and sprains, minor illness like colds and small wounds and grazes.
“Even the most minor ailment can have serious implications upon an elite athlete’s performance,” Olympic organizing committee LOCOG’s director of sport Debbie Jevans told reporters as they were given a preview of the clinic on Monday.
She said the centre was equipped to respond quickly and get athletes the treatment they needed as soon as possible.
Organizers stress the medical care offered will be “immediate and necessary” and say athletes and support staff will not be treated for pre-existing or chronic conditions.
Experience from previous Games suggests the dental and eye care clinics are likely to be among the busiest, ranking second only to physiotherapy.
“There will be competitors who haven’t had much access to dental care,” said Wendy Turner, one of the six dental specialists who will work at the clinic. “This is an opportunity for them to get it sorted out.”
The main healthcare services - which will include state of the art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography(CT) scans, as well as digital X-rays, will be delivered by a team of 10 paid LOCOG staff, 500 volunteer doctors, nurses and other health workers and 80 on-call specialists.
“We have always put the needs of the athletes at the heart of the Games,” said LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe.
“When they are preparing for the most important moment in their sporting careers, it’s vital they are in peak condition with all the support they need.”
The Olympic village’s doping control station is also to be housed in the polyclinic but will be accessible via a separate entrance, organizers said.
The centre was built with 17 million pounds from Britain’s taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS) and another six million pounds from the London 2012 organizing committee’s 9.3 billion pounds budget.
After the Games, the plan is for the clinic to be converted back into an NHS health clinic with primary care doctors, pharmacy services and a dental surgery. ($1 = 0.6382 British pounds)
Editing by Tony Jimenez