From the outside, the province’s mobile medical unit simply looks like a white truck. But stepping inside is like entering another world.
The interior of the 16-metre, 1,000-square foot tractor-trailer looks like the emergency room of a hospital. There are stretchers, medical supplies, monitors, portable X-ray machines, ultrasounds and crash carts.
The high-tech hospital on wheels and additional support trailer, administered by the Provincial Health Services Authority, can be deployed anywhere in the province when disaster strikes or when additional capacity is needed to cope with emergencies or large-scale public events.
With five full-time staff, the unit is deployed to the regional health authorities in the province throughout the year to help support hospitals and health centres undergoing renovation, hosting outreach clinics and providing disaster training and education with site clinicians.
Its latest stops were Victoria General Hospital where they provided roughly 60 local clinicians with disaster training and trauma education. It also shopped in Esquimalt, providing pediatrics, asthma and allergy care to the Songhees First Nations.
Alyshia Higgins, program manager for the mobile medical unit, said it’s flexible in the type of care it can provide during a deployment.
“We’ve really expanded the scope of our program. Initially, the thought was that we would provide support for disasters and emergencies. But we really can fulfill a variety of means,” she said, adding a few babies have been born in the unit when they were in Pemberton.
In 2012, the unit was deployed to its first emergency to provide care for up to eight patients at a time when Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency room was flooded
While the unit is outfitted for the rare disaster, Peter Hennecke, clinical operations director, said an important aspect has become education and outreach work.
“We’re like a catalyst for change. We’re working with the emergency health services, fire, bringing all these groups together for education that doesn’t always happen if you don’t have that catalyst,” he said.
The unit costs roughly $900,000 annually to operate with funding divided between Fraser, Interior, Northern and Vancouver Coastal health, as well as the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
The Provincial Health Services Authority works with the health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians.