By Brian Ojanpa
---- — NORTH MANKATO — In repose it resembles any other large semi tractor trailer.
But when it morphs into its readiness state, it becomes a fully equipped emergency-response hospital on wheels.
“Some rural hospitals don’t have this much space in their ERs,” Minnesota Mobile Medical Unit Medical Director Jim Harris said Wednesday as he stood in the 1,000-square-foot space facilitated by two massive slide-out sides.
The unit, on display at South Central College as part of an open house showcase for regional disaster response resources, costs $1.2 million and travels with its own large supply truck stocked with everything the unit needs to help disaster-ravaged communities.
Deployed when a local jurisdiction requests it, the unit has eight patient care beds (16 can be installed if needed), a lab, pharmacy, X-ray machine and critical-care stabilization capabilities.
“Basically, what we tell people is that we’re there to fill in the gaps,” Harris said.
Those scenarios could occur if a local hospital is knocked out of commission or if a community’s medical personnel require supplemental help. The unit travels with an on-board staff and a goal is to have each community have its own designated staff that can be deployed.
“There are only a handful of these units in the country, and none other in the Midwest,” Harris said.
The tractor trailer and supply truck were purchased by the Metro Region Hospital Compact using federal health care grant money and later donated to the Minnesota Department of Health for statewide use.
The unit was delivered in 2008 and used that year when the Twin Cities hosted the National Republican Convention that produced injured police and protesters.