Mobile Medical Unit – Evaluating The Success of a Hospital On Wheels

In late 2016, the opioid crisis was ravaging Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Emergency Departments were overloaded. In response, Vancouver Coastal Health, BC Emergency Health Services, the City of Vancouver, nurses and social workers joined to bring in the Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) – a hospital on wheels owned by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

The idea was that low-risk patients with presumed fentanyl overdoses did not need the advanced care of an ED: the mobile unit could more efficiently care for them. A February 2019 study in the Journal of Urban Health led by St. Paul’s ED’s Dr. Frank Scheuermeyer demonstrate the program’s success.

Between December 2016 and March 2017, 269 cases of opioid overdose were treated at the MMU. None had serious adverse events. Only three patients were taken to emergency for reasons unrelated to their overdose.