Mobile clinic pitches in to cover Boonstock

Resources at Penticton Regional Hospital will be bolstered by the province’s Mobile Medical Unit for Boonstock.

Jesse Sheridan

Jesse Sheridan

Resources at Penticton Regional Hospital will be bolstered by the province’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) for this weekend’s Boonstock Music and Arts Festival.

The 15-metre tractor trailer which expands to a 90-square-metre (1,000-square feet) hospital on wheels was set up Wednesday morning at the PRH entrance.

“This event (Boonstock) came up and it was a request from Interior Health to come and help support the medical surge expected from this type of event and is just insurance to make sure we have the capacity to take care of it,” said Peter Hennecke, medical operations director for the Provincial Health Services Authority during a brief tour of the $6-million unit. “We can provide everything from first-aid level of care all the way to emergency, critical and even life and limb-saving surgery if absolutely needed. For this kind of mission we’re going to have about five stretchers but we have the capacity for a bit more than that.”

The nearly $900,000 annual operating budget for the MMU is shared by the province’s regional health authorities and the unit usually travels to each one at least once a year. According to Hennecke, attempts are made to co-ordinate its arrival with various events and activities where there are likely to be large numbers of people.

“It’s for everything from mass-gathering, renovation support, emergency disasters and outreach clinics, basically whatever is needed,” he said. “What we’re learning from all these kind of events, whether it be sporting or music events, they have all kinds of risk factors and that’s what the health authorities plan for.

“We try to prepare for it as much as we can.”

The MMU is actually an extension of the hospital and will serve in an overflow capacity. The staff of up to eight will include medical personnel from PRH and a couple of the unit’s own clinicians.

According to Maureen Johnson, acute health services director for the hospital, the August long weekend is one of their busiest times of the year and the festival numbers are expected to compound that.

“We generally staff up for all the events and this year we have additional events in the community and we’ve done preparations to make sure we can provide appropriate medical services to the patients who come to our hospital and the visitors who are here this long weekend,” she said. “Particularly in the areas of emergency, our operating rooms and our ICU and this year we are very fortunate to have the MMU.”

Thomson added the hospital has worked with the City of Penticton and Boonstock officials in making general plans for the weekend.

In addition to the medical unit, a support trailer provides office space and workshop for support, and is stocked with a variety of medical and consumable supplies for use in the event of emergency.

It can be connected to a hospital’s power supply, city water and waste systems, but also has its own power, oxygen, water, and waste systems for self-sufficiency.