(A work crew puts the final touches on erecting a Mobile Medical Shelter Module Monday at Watsonville Community Hospital. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — A team of workers was at Watsonville Community Hospital Monday, practicing setting up a series of giant tents that someday could serve as a multifaceted mobile hospital.

Santa Cruz County’s first mobile hospital, which can be set up in less than an hour, could serve as an emergency room, surgical suite and health clinic.

The tents were donated by California Emergency Medical Services Authority. Santa Cruz County was one of six jurisdictions to receive such a donation.

Each tent is climate controlled, and all can be interconnected to form a full-service facility, which would serve as a stand-in if either Watsonville Community or Dominican hospitals are disabled by either a natural or a man-made disaster.

The mobile hospital could also be used during a flu pandemic or a mass-casualty incident.

“The Mobile Medical Hospital is a critical piece of our disaster response infrastructure,” said Santa Cruz County Health Officer Arnold Leff. “This greatly increases our medical providers’ ability to care for the community during its hours of greatest need.”

In addition, the tents are designed to withstand winds up to 120 miles per hour, said Markell Pierce, program manager for California Emergence Services Authority.

Better still, they can be taken down and stored in a series of small boxes, he said.

“All you need is a flatbed,” Pierce said.

The mobile hospital is important in the county, which is surrounded by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.

During the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, damage to roads all but isolated the county, said Santa Cruz County Medical Reserve Coordinator Nancy Yellin.

“It’s a great asset for our county, since we have a tendency to be an island in a disaster,” she said.

The Santa Cruz County Medical Reserve Corps, a group of 400 volunteers with varied healthcare professional backgrounds, are tasked with staffing the Mobile Hospital when it is deployed.

County officials are hoping to recruit a team of physicians, and will hold a recruitment fair on April 25 from 4-7 p.m. at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office at 5200 Soquel Ave.

For information, visit tinyurl.com/yb226cjf.

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