Mobile hospital visits Nanaimo

The province's new high-tech, miniature hospital-on-wheels rolled into Nanaimo Friday.

Leanne Appleton

Leanne Appleton

The province’s new high-tech, miniature hospital-on-wheels rolled into Nanaimo Friday.

The $5-million Mobile Medical Unit was on display at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital throughout the day.

More than 100 local health professionals, first responders, emergency planners and members of the public toured the unit, which is housed in a 16-metre tractor-trailer that expands to a 90-square-metre facility with about 10 treatment bays in one large room.

A smaller room with its own ventilation system can be used for more critical care patients or emergency surgery.

“This visit is to let people actually see it, know what it is capable of,” said Norma Jones, corporate director for emergency management with the Vancouver Island Health Authority. “It can function as a clinic, an emergency department or a mini-hospital.”

The mobile unit comes with a second trailer that stores enough medical supplies and other emergency necessities to last 72 hours, as well as a tent that can accommodate an additional 100 patients. It has its own oxygen, water, electricity and waste systems, but can also hook up to a community’s systems.

The unit will provide support to communities: in the event of a natural disaster, such as an interface fire, flood or earthquake; for business continuity purposes, such as during a major renovation or mechanical problem in a hospital’s emergency department; or for large-scale community events.

The first event the unit attended was the Abbotsford Air Show last August.

Peter Hennecke, clinical manager of the unit, said a group of staff from the Lower Mainland would come to an emergency scene with the unit, but local staff could be needed to help run the facility.

The unit’s four full-time and two part-time staffers are touring the province to introduce health staff in different communities to the unit.

Hennecke said the team plans to hold training sessions with teams in each area so that if the unit needs to be deployed in a community, there will be local professionals available already familiar with the unit.

Leanne Appleton, clinical operations director, is working with the health authorities to identify what types of situations the unit will respond to and figuring out where in each community the crew can set up, including a backup location in case the first spot is unavailable.

It takes two to three hours to set up the unit, as long as the site is secure when the team arrives, she added.

The Mobile Medical Unit is one of the major medical legacies from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. The Ministry of Health bought the unit from VANOC – it was used to treat athletes and their families in Whistler – after the Games to improve emergency service delivery across the province.