It, literally, is an emergency room on wheels.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction at the Jersey Shore, and the resulting increase in emergency room patients that came with it, hospitals from across the region found their emergency departments overstressed.
The solution to that issue has come in the form of a Mobile Satellite Emergency Department. Effectively, the MSED, as it’s called, is an emergency department on wheels – plus some tents.
After Sandy hit, two such units were set up in New Jersey, one in Hoboken and one at Ocean Medical Center in Brick. The Brick unit, staffed and supported by other hospital systems across the state, primarily Hackensack University Medical Center where it is based, provides what hospital officials said Thursday is cutting edge medical care.
The MSED unit, currently up and running in the parking lot of Ocean Medical Center, is one of only a few in the nation, paid for mainly by Homeland Security grants.
The core of the mobile hospital complex is a 43-foot semi truck with expandable sides, outfitted with seven critical care beds, each having monitor-defibrillator capability. The unit also includes a portable digital X-ray unit, telemedicine capability, a portable field laboratory, a small pharmaceutical cache, overhead medical procedure lighting and onboard medical gases.
The unit also has a separate, tent-based triage area which can treat about 40 patients.
Some patients who would normally be taken to Community Medical Center in Toms River, Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood or Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune are being treated at the unit in order to save traditional emergency beds for the sickliest patients.
Ambulances from communities across the state – Gloucester County EMS and Passaic County EMS rigs brought in patients while Patch was on scene – were serving storm-affected towns locally.
“The state and FEMA have developed this program, and they were eager to mobilize it,” said Dr. Bradley Pulver, Medical Director at Ocean Medical Center. “It’s helpful. It allows us, basically, to decompress some of the overflow in our emergency department.”
The volume of emergency patients at the Brick hospital itself has increased “dramatically” since the hurricane hit, Pulver said.
“Our volume on Tuesday and Wednesday was 50 percent above our normal volume,” he said.
Well over 200 patients came to Ocean Medical Center’s emergency department each day, said Pulver.
“The staff is mobilized, we’ve upstaffed, and we are handling it, but it is certainly helpful to have this resource,” he said.
Inside, the warm rooms of the triage unit housed several patients Thursday evening. The trailer-based mobile emergency department itself, filled with flat-screen monitors and electronic devices, was as well equipped as any hospital ER, staff inside said.
“There is a good relief valve now,” for hospital staff, said Pulver.