By Del Williams
During the COVID-19 pandemic — or any healthcare crisis — there’s simply not enough time to build a new brick-and-mortar facility if one is needed. It can take over a year just to receive the required building permit for even a modest expansion. Now as hospitals and providers require surge capacity or isolation of some services, such as COVID-19 testing or treatment, custom mobile medical trailers can provide an answer to some of their most urgent needs.
Rapidly deployable trailers and modular suites can provide mobile medical testing, clinical care, office space, surgical facilities, utility support and even be used as a fully functional hospital virtually anywhere at any time. The trailers can include a patient screening area, a reception area, examination rooms, a scrub room, and operating rooms. The units can be custom designed, fabricated, and outfitted with essentially whatever the healthcare provider requires.
“The COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted the need for additional mobile and movable medical facilities. Emergencies do not allow us the time it takes to build new hospitals from the ground up,” said Mark Steele, Co-Owner and CEO of St. Charles, MO-based Craftsmen Industries, a rapid designer and fabricator of custom mobile trailers, modular and containerized units.
According to Steele, the pandemic sparked the drive to create a fully functional hospital that can be quickly taken to any location for temporary or permanent use with the versatility to be easily adapted to a variety of needs.
In response, Craftsmen used its industry knowledge and that of Gensler, a medical facilities expert and world class architects and designers, to view all angles so the final product would fully meet the needs of healthcare providers, patients, and workers as well as logistic experts. Since 1982, Craftsmen has fabricated mobile units for organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Verizon, Dell, and dozens of others. Gensler has extensive medical facilities expertise as a global architecture, design, and planning firm with 50 locations worldwide.
Craftsmen — with Gensler serving as product design consultant — developed Capsule Care, a brand of mobile hospital trailers, to address gaps in the American healthcare system. The project utilized the expertise of a full team of engineers, healthcare leaders, and interior designers to provide essential medical care with a superior patient experience. As such, the custom hospital trailers can be configured as individual clinics or a multiple unit field hospital.
Functionally, a mobile hospital is built with a standard tractor trailer chassis. The trailer is modified to include two expandable sections that open onsite to provide nearly 1,000 square feet of interior space in each unit. Each unit can provide six patient rooms, one restroom, one nurse’s station, and two entry and exit points. The setup includes the latest technology, including a wireless satellite uplink, to enable efficient full function and communication even at remote sites. The interior is climate-controlled with a system that filters in new air without recirculation and can meet stringent air exchange requirements.
In terms of pandemic application, the trailers can provide beds for COVID-19 patients, serving as quarantine space separate from a main facility. Alternatively, the units can provide surge capacity for non-COVID-19 patients, such as for sub-acute care overflow.
While the mobile medical trailers can be quickly deployed to address urgent testing and treatment needs due to the pandemic, the units can also be utilized and adapted for a wide range of medical needs.
In addition to providing extra surge capacity during the pandemic, mobile medical trailers could be used to provide a rapid response to other disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or any event that requires quickly built yet sophisticated medical facilities. Between emergencies, the units can be used in various ways including as blood donation centers, facilities service units, sterilization systems, laboratory equipment, temporary clinics during building renovations, and general care clinics in low-income or isolated areas for under-served populations.
“The mobile medical trailers were designed for quick deployment and maximum flexibility, while still giving healthcare providers the space they need to expertly care for patients in a variety of situations,” said Brandon Larcom, Director of Product Development at Gensler.
Regardless of application, it is vitally important for medical providers to have a fully functioning unit built quickly before traveling to a site, setting up, and starting to see patients. In this regard, a complete hospital trailer can be completed in 16 weeks at Craftsmen’s facility.
After a unit arrives onsite, full setup time including providing plumbing, HVAC, and power typically takes one to three days depending on the number of units and site preparations made in advance. The modular units can repeatedly move from site to site, and medical capabilities tailored as needed.
The main reason that the structures can be quickly customized to meet specific healthcare requirements is that Craftsmen offers in-house design, engineering, and fabrication, which can cut traditional delivery time in half.
The firm — which is ISO 9001:2015 certified and fabricates with a wide variety of materials including carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum and alloys — is not only an integrator but also a fabricator with full engineering, electrical, and plumbing capabilities. This helps to resolve any issues that can occur at the drawing board, during modification, as well as any difficulties that occur on the fly.
Custom mobile medical trailers will become an increasingly important tool as hospitals continue to deal with the urgent demands of the pandemic and other crises as well as the need to provide better care.
Whether utilized adjacent to a current facility for isolation or surge capacity – or as a fully functional mobile hospital or clinic in remote underserved areas – these versatile units will help to promote community health while increasing work efficiency.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, CA.