A mobile hospital capable of treating victims of disasters ranging from fires to terrorist attacks was unveiled yesterday by Hackensack University Medical Center.
Purchased with a $3.2 million federal grant, the mobile emergency trauma unit and two support vehicles are designed to navigate narrow streets during emergencies, bringing life-saving care closer to victims who live in densely populated areas.
Included are a vehicle outfitted with a seven-bed intensive care unit, a biological response vehicle with laboratory equipment capable of identifying biological agents such as anthrax, and a third support vehicle that serves as a communications center. All are mounted on flatbed trucks rather than larger tractor-trailers for easier maneuvering through urban streets.
"We're the only one in the country with this unique design," said Joseph Feldman, chairman of the Bergen County hospital's emergency trauma department. "Our hope is we will be the prototype for this region."
He said that should the hospital need to respond to a large-scale incident that requires an on-site emergency department, the unit will "substantially improve the ability for on-scene treatment."
"We will even have an oxygen-generating system allowing us to produce our own oxygen without having to haul it in," he said.
The hospital plans to add a "mobile operating theater" that will allow surgical procedures to be performed at disaster scenes. Also planned are a pharmacy, a vehicle to serve as a decontamination center, and a Disaster Institute that will help train hospital staff as well as police, fire and EMS personnel in disaster response.
Yesterday's unveiling was attended by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) as well as Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.), all of whom helped secure funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.
"These units provide our communities with the best on-site trauma care possible," Lautenberg said. "Instead of bringing disaster victims to the hospital, these mobile units bring the hospital to them."
Menendez said the response unit will be life-changing for those in need of immediate and comprehensive care, while Rothman called the delivery of the mobile emergency response system a "milestone development."
Angela Stewart may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-4178.
Photo Credit: 1. MIA SONG/THE STAR-LEDGER