Mobile medical unit becoming ICU during Cariboo Memorial Hospital flood repairs

The Provincial Health Services Authority’s mobile medical unit will be used as an intensive care unit, beginning Friday, Aug. 7, while Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake undergoes some repairs due to flooding last January. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Deanna Woo, project co-ordinator of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), Thalia Vesterback, director of clinical operations with Cariboo Memorial Hospital, and Peter Hennecke, clinical operations director with PHSA, gave media a tour of the unit on Thursday morning. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Cariboo Memorial Hospital IT technician Shar Ferguson, left, and registered nurse Rebecca Egilson familiarize themselves with the mobile medical unit where they will be working until the hospital repairs are completed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
The mobile medical unit arrived in Williams Lake with a crew to help with set up, as seen here Thursday morning when members of the Emergency Health Services B.C. detachment in Williams Lake stopped by to see how the unit works. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
The traffic flow is one-way only going east past the mobile medical unit while it is in place in the Cariboo Memorial Hospital parking lot. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
An supply trailer for the MMU is also parked at the hospital. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

While Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Williams Lake undergoes repairs due to flooding last January, a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) will house the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“This will take over for our current ICU space,” said Thalia Vesterback, CMH director of clinical operations during a media tour Thursday of the Provincial Health Services Authority unit which is erected in the hospital parking lot just east of Deni House.

“Patients we would have normally had in the ICU will be in here.”

During the renovations, which will hopefully be completed by the middle of September, the ICU area in the hospital will become part of the emergency department.

January’s pipe burst necessitated repairs to the emergency waiting room, ambulance entrance and front half of the emergency department.

“Because of the extent of the water and potential damage to the base of the walls, we have to remediate all of that,” Vesterback said.

Read more: Extreme cold bursts water pipe, closes emergency and main entrance to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

The hospital’s emergency and ambulance entrances will be closed during the repairs, which will begin in full on Monday, and only the main entrance will be open.

Parking and some of the traffic flow have been changed as well.

For example, the first parking lot on the Johnston Street side is reserved for people who have mobility challenges.

A second large supply unit trailer is parked on the east side of the hospital that supports the MMU.

Peter Hennecke, clinical operations director with the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), has been in Williams Lake since Tuesday, arriving with the MMU.

A crew of clinical and administrative staff are working with Hennecke and CMH staff in preparation of ICU patients being transported into the unit from the hospital on Friday, Aug. 7.

He said there will be three ICU beds inside the unit. There is a storage room at one end with a computer work station inside, more supplies and a charting area, where a hospital IT technician and nurse were already working Thursday.

That storage room can also be used as a clinical area if needed.

“Every mission is different as to what goes on in here,” Hennecke said. “Sometimes we will have six stretchers if it is an emergency kind of unit. We’ve even had labour and delivery in here.”

When the ICU was being renovated at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, the MMU was also used as an ICU.

The unit is tied into Interior Health as a legal extension and hooked into the hospital’s IT and power systems and staff working in the MMU will have their own phone lines and computers.

Equipment such as an X-ray machine, ultrasound, ventilator and pharmacy medicine dispensing system from the hospital were already in place Thursday morning.

Vesterback said protocols could change as to what kind of patients will be staying inside the MMU, depending on what is happening in the hospital.

The Ministry of Health purchased the MMU from VANOC after the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“We’ve actually been to over 65 sites in 10 years,” said Deanna Woo, project co-ordinator, with the PHSA. “It’s great to be here and support Interior Health and Cariboo Memorial Hospital as they undergo the renovations.”

As with equipment in the medical industry, the unit has to be updated all the time, Hennecke said.

“It’s like a giant RV, you have to replace flooring, plumbing, electrical — all that stuff.”

Read more: Cariboo Memorial Hospital on the mend after cold weather wreaks havoc on old building

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