Monday, November 7, 2011
During a soggy week at the end of October, the usually bare grassy patch in front of Sunnybrook’s main building was transformed into a M.A.S.H-like set up. An expansive cream-colored compound had many people doing double takes and peering inside the canvas doorway to figure out what was going on (myself included). What greeted me were at least two dozen medical experts buzzing around, simulating a mock casualty exercise. They were all clad in bright red coats and baseball hats, all adorned with the Emergency Medical Assistance Team (EMAT) logo. Luckily, as I soon learned, this was just a test run. But if you ever see this scene pop up in your neighborhood, you can be sure something has gone terribly wrong.
EMAT was established post-SARS, when the province realized the need for specially trained experts who could work in situations never encountered before. From e-coli evacuations to the G8 Summit, EMAT has been there. Known as the ‘hospital on wheels’, EMAT is a first-of-its-kind mobile medical field unit that can be deployed anywhere in Ontario with road access within 24 hours. It has the capacity to hold 56 beds. In short, it’s very cool.
EMAT’s latest deployment in July 2011 included a 20-hour drive to Thunder Bay to assist with evacuees from fire-threatened communities in Northwestern Ontario. As one member of the 150-member team told me, they never know when the call will come. What follows is always an adrenaline-fueled experience that leaves staff both parts exhausted and exhilarated (but mostly the latter).
Because of the very noticeable paramilitary set up, EMAT usually elicits a fair share of rubbernecking. Tours from town mayors, city controllers and other official types are common. Good to know my reaction on the Sunnybrook campus was the norm!
To do your own virtual rubbernecking, check out more information on EMAT.
Watch this week's video on YouTube