By Mike Nowatzki for Forum News Services
BISMARCK – Inside Sanford Health’s new mobile clinic, Amanda Van Sickle scanned her arm with a high-definition camera as a doctor more than 400 miles away in Sioux Falls, S.D., watched on a TV monitor.
In about a month, it’ll be oilfield workers under the lens as Sanford prepares to dispatch its first O.P.C. mobileMED truck, unveiled Tuesday at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference at the Bismarck Civic Center.
Sanford announced the new service in March as a way to provide health care services in western North Dakota for oil-producing companies and their subsidiaries.
“We will bring this directly to the workforce to meet their very specific health care needs,” Stephanie Murdock, vice president of corporate development for Sanford, said Tuesday.
The plan calls for two mobile clinics on wheels and a modular clinic in a 2,000-square-foot manufactured home, initially to be located in Watford City.
The 45-foot-long mobile units were built in Ohio, and the first one arrived last week. It contains two exam rooms, a lab and a restroom.
The units will offer primary treatment and triage for illnesses and minor injuries, as well as lab work, X-rays, blood work, vaccinations, referrals to specialists and telemedicine services that will allow patients to connect with any specialist in the Sanford organization, Dr. Joel Blanchard said.
In the telemedicine exam room, nurse practitioner Paula Moch said the high-definition cameras will allow specialists to visually examine patients like they’re in the room.
“You can zoom in and look at a freckle on somebody’s nose,” she said.
Blanchard called the mobile units a “win-win” for oil companies and communities because it will relieve pressure on local clinics and emergency departments.
The next step is to work with oil companies to identify which areas need the mobile services, he said.
The project represents an initial investment of $2.7 million with $4.8 million in annual operating expenses, Murdock said.
The first mobile unit will hit the road in mid-June, though initially it will be parked in Watford City until the modular clinic is set up, which is expected to happen this fall, Murdock said.
Sanford hopes to start dispatching the second mobile unit from Minot by the end of June, she said.
Three or four crew members will operate each unit, including a nurse, nurse practitioner, radiology technician and driver, with all being cross-trained in different areas, Sanford officials said.