Whether evacuating patients out of natural disaster areas, providing necessary backup facilities during an unprecedented flu season or assisting fellow hospitals in times of emergencies, Atrium Health’s Mobile Medicine team is always on call to serve our communities.

News | 3 months ago

Mobile Medicine: Ready at a Moment's Notice

Whether evacuating patients out of natural disaster areas, providing necessary backup facilities during an unprecedented flu season or assisting fellow hospitals in times of emergencies, Atrium Health’s Mobile Medicine team is always on call to serve our communities.

Many people will remember the 2017 hurricane season as historic. The extremely active period produced 10 hurricanes, six of which reached a Category 3, 4 or 5. Two of these hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, struck the continental United States – and one, Maria, tore through the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.

Abby Peterson, MHA, CMTE, director of operations for Atrium Health’s Mobile Medicine team, helped coordinate evacuations of at-risk patients to locations out of the storm’s path as Hurricane Harvey began to bear down on Houston and east Texas. Just two short weeks later, Peterson’s team was again called on to provide medical evacuations ahead of another nasty storm – Maria. This hurricane tore through the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

And in between Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, crews kept a close eye on Hurricane Irma, as the storm strengthened to a category 5, ultimately making landfall in the Florida Keys.

It was a busy fall for the team, which operates the MedCenter Air fleet of aircraft, helicopters, ambulances and a one-of-a-kind mobile hospital unit – Carolinas MED-1. Nearly every resource that the team staffs was put to the test in the past 12 months as they responded to different types of emergencies. From Mother Nature’s fury to strains of influenza that just wouldn’t quit.

But as a department trained to respond to these emergency situations, they must be ready – equipment and supplies stocked, just like at one of our hospitals – at a moment’s notice.

Prepared for the Unpredictable

The fixed-wing aircraft team, in particular, had one of its busiest years in 2017. They were called upon to help with multiple missions during hurricane season. Over the course of six-and-a-half weeks, the teams deployed to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Every mission is different, and the time it takes to get out the door varies on who is needed and where. But flight crews with MedCenter Air can move within minutes, while larger operations, such as Carolinas MED-1, can be ready within hours.

“Many times, we don’t know when we’ll be needed until we get the call,” says Peterson. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency typically gives us 12 to 24 hours to be ready for a large deployment, but our teammates are prepared to be out the door almost immediately.”

Thankfully, Peterson has enough staff to help during these situations. Atrium Health teammates have always been eager to serve on a Mobile Medicine assignment if needed. In fact, following the deployment of Carolinas MED-1 to eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Peterson says her department received an overwhelming number of applications from employees looking to join the team.

“The hours can be long and tiresome,” adds Peterson, who notes that during long deployments, they try to rotate staff out every five to seven days. “But knowing that you impact a patient’s care, whether indirectly or in person, really keeps you going. None of the missions would be possible without the amazing team support. We rely on so many different departments within Atrium Health to make every mission a success. And we’re grateful to be able to do what we do.”

The Mobile Medicine team has continued to stay busy. During the recent record-breaking flu season, they deployed Carolinas MED-1 to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The team stayed in Georgia for months, helping with things like bed shortage and high patient volume. The mobile hospital and team will also travel to Tryon, NC for about a month during the FEI World Equestrian Games in September 2018.

Mobile Medicine: Fast Facts 

  • Approximately 160 Atrium Health teammates help staff Carolinas MED-1
  • Carolinas MED-1 has deployed 80 days YTD
  • The Mobile Medicine team has treated 6,045 patients YTD
  • Patients evacuated prior to Hurricane Harvey were transported to facilities in Columbia, SC, Shreveport, LA, Atlanta, GA and Jackson, MS.
  • Eleven pilots and 11 medical providers helped transport 13 patients to St. Croix and St. Thomas during Hurricane Maria.

 

Learn more about MedCenter Air or Carolinas MED-1