When disaster strikes, the California Emergency Medical Service Authority aims to be ready with the world’s largest mobile, civilian hospitals. The three hospitals boast 200 beds and can be transported by a C- 130 transport plane or by truck to the scene of a disaster. Within three days, they can begin receiving patients.
“It’s not a matter of if disaster will strike, but when it will strike,” said Dr. Cesar Aristeiguieta, director of EMSA. “This is a big step forward in our preparedness effort.”
Southern California’s 23,000-square-foot facility was unveiled at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on Saturday as part of EMSA’s Rough & Ready 2007.
Los Alamitos hosted the weeklong event, where more than 400 volunteer emergency responders gathered for intensive disaster training.
Some of the volunteers acted as disaster “victims” with various ailments on Saturday to help demonstrate the hospital in action.
Almost the size of a football field, the state-of-the-art hospital features intensive care, emergency care, operating rooms, an obstetrical/gynecological unit and housing for 150 staff members.
It also includes radiology, a laboratory, pharmacy and 20-bed isolation unit.
“It’s a fully functioning hospital,” Aristeiguieta said.
The climate-controlled facility is completely self-sustainable, he added, with its own oxygen and power generators.
It will be stored in boxes loaded on 27 semitrucks at Los Alamitos, Aristeiguieta said, and can be “ready to go at any time.”
Along with the hospitals, the state has also implemented emergency response teams such as the California Medical Assistance Teams system, a staff of on-call medical workers who can arrive at the mobile hospitals within 12 hours of being dispatched.
Registered nurse Pat Morozumi, deputy chief of operations for CAL- MAT, said the facility at Los Alamitos was assembled in just under 72 hours.
“We were on the clock,” she said.
A mobile hospital is critical in a state vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, Aristeiguieta said. “California has unique needs.”
Before the state’s decision to build the hospitals, which cost $6 million each, the prior solution would have been to transport disaster victims to another area for treatment, he said.
Bringing a hospital to the scene of the disaster could make a lifesaving difference if a major earthquake were to damage standing hospitals in the area, Morozumi said.
“We’re very excited to have something like this,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll never have to use it.”