Doctors at Victoria General got a rare glimpse at the mobile hospital the health authority could call in for major emergencies.
The $5-million mobile medical unit was inherited by the province as legacy of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Originally used to treat athletes in Whistler, it is now kept on stand-by in a Delta storage facility, ready to be deployed when an disaster strikes.
“We can get it anywhere in B.C. in eight to 36 hours,” said Leanne Appleton, MMU clinic operations director.
The unit is contained in two 16-metre transport trailers. One carries supplies and the other expands into a 90-square-metre hospital with a dozen treatment bays and an operating room with surgical capacity. A third smaller trailer carries a tent that can be used to provide acute care for up to 100 people.
If roads are blocked, the trailers can be airlifted into an area. The unit has its own energy generators, water supply, waste disposal and an oxygen concentrator on board.
“It’s designed to be totally self sufficient,” Appleton said at VGH. “We have everything we need to run at capacity for 72 hours.”
The unit would be called in if an emergency — such as earthquake, fire or flood — overwhelms local hospital capacity or if a part of the hospital itself is damaged. It’s also been used at special events, including the Abbotsford Air Show.
Prior to buying this unit, the province had nothing similar at its disposal.
Dr. Peter Hennecke, MMU clinical manager, is responsible for training doctors to work inside the unit in an emergency.
“We can’t just dump (the unit) at a hospital and expect doctors to know how to use it,” he said. “We show them how to use all the equipment and where everything is.”
Hennecke said doctors often tell him the MMU is nicer than the facility they usually work in.
“It’s big and bright, and very modern,” Hennecke said. “People are always impressed coming in here.”
The unit is managed by four full-time and two part-time staff, with drivers on-call to transport it.
It’s currently being toured across the province to raise public awareness about emergency preparedness and give emergency responders a chance to see the unit first-hand.