BC Health Minister Terry Lake toured the Downtown Eastside on Monday, December 12, visiting VCH and PHC staff responding to the overdose crisis. The minister talked with staff at the BC Mobile Medical Unit (MMU), stationed at 58 West Hastings, which opened the following day as an alternative medical care unit for patients who overdose.
Inside the MMU, Minister Lake talked with clinicians participating in orientation. “I think we’re leading the world and you’re part of that. A big thank you to all of you and the very best of luck.”
The MMU will create capacity in emergency departments, including the one at St. Paul’s Hospital, which currently sees the majority of overdose patients in Vancouver, and it will improve turnaround times for paramedics so they’re free for the next 911 call. Emergency physicians and nurses will treat patients in the mobile unit, and addictions physicians and staff will be available to connect patients with opioid addiction treatment.
Dr. Eric Grafstein, Regional Emergency Program, will be one of the emergency physicians working at the MMU. “The opioid overdose crisis in Vancouver creates a unique opportunity for collaboration that we really haven’t seen before between acute care, the hospitals, between the ambulance service, addictions services, between primary and community care in Vancouver.”
Within the first 30 minutes of opening on Tuesday, December 13, paramedics transported three overdose patients to the MMU. By the end of the day, the MMU team had treated a total of 15 patients.
“We’ve had great feedback from the paramedics for easy access and quick turnaround,” says Krista Golden, head nurse for the MMU.
“It’s an evolving process, but we have a great model of care here. The collaboration between acute and community staff is making a real difference at a critical time for a vulnerable population.”
The minister also met Portland Hotel Society (PHS) staff to see firsthand how the Washington Needle Depot is now acting as an overdose prevention site, providing people who use illicit drugs with a safe space to be monitored. PHS staff are also equipped with naloxone and the appropriate training for overdose response.