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North Dakota’s emergency room on wheels aimed at disasters

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota health officials on Tuesday unveiled a new self-contained emergency room on wheels that can be used during floods, tornadoes and other statewide disasters.

The Mobile Medical Unit is 53-foot-long semitrailer converted into rolling hospital that can accommodate up to 16 patients, said Tim Wiedrich, chief of the Health Department’s emergency preparedness and response section. It’s designed to be used in areas where hospital emergency services are unavailable.

Wiedrich said the mobile emergency facility — equipped with a generator, X-ray machine, laboratory equipment and water and wastewater system — will be an “extremely useful tool.”

The $1.5 million unit originally was purchased by Minnesota in 2008 using federal grant money, Wiedrich said.

North Dakota acquired the unit at no cost through a competitive grant process from Minnesota, which offered it to neighboring states for use as a “regional asset,” he said.

North Dakota has priority but will make it available to other states in the region, Wiedrich said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who toured the wheeled emergency facility Tuesday, called it “a great acquisition” for the state and noted it could be used at large public events.

“It’s nice to know this is available,” he said.

Wiedrich said the unit will be based in Bismarck and can be used in conjunction with existing medical tents the state maintains. The unit will be staffed by doctors, nurses and other medical personnel from a pool of about 1,000 emergency workers around the state, known as the medical reserve corps, he said.

Terry Dwelle, the Health Department’s chief administrator, said the portable emergency unit could be used to augment existing private medical facilities but it would not compete with them.

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This article was written by James Macpherson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.