A mobile medical unit (MMU) is among the measures being set up to help better coordinate health care at Mission Institution, where the largest outbreak of COVID-19 has been recorded at any federal prison in Canada.
The mobile unit has been installed at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where a secure area has also been set up for the 41 inmates and staff who have tested positive at the B.C. prison.
Dr. Victoria Lee, the CEO of the Fraser Health Authority, said Tuesday that the mobile unit will not only help protect health-care workers, but it will also help reduce the number of guards needed at the hospital.
“It has capability to support patient care in a variety of situations ranging from minor illnesses to a higher level of acuity care, like critical care,” Lee said.
B.C. initially acquired the MMU ahead of the 2010 Olympics, and deployed it at Whistler’s Function Junction during the games.
Since then, it has been deployed to the Interior during severe wildfire and flood seasons, and to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2016 at the peak of the opioid overdose crisis.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that officials had been looking for the best way to deploy the unit during the COIVD-19 crisis.
“There is a cadre of physicians and nurses who work with the mobile medical unit who know how to reconfigure it effectively and have the protocols in place to be able to care for people,” said Dr. Henry.
“It’s kind of an amazing thing and its a great asset that we have here in the province.”
A health-care team will also provide consults online to those at Mission Institution.
The Union of Canadian Corrections Officers has called for new protections at the B.C. facility, including more cleaning, immediate distribution of surgical masks to inmates, and a freeze on staff moving between institutions.
About 150 corrections officers work at the Mission prison. The medium-security wing, which is the site of the outbreak, has capacity for 216 inmates.