The 80,000 or so football fans converging on MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII are paying anywhere between $500 and $2,500 per ticket—or much, much more on the resale market—for the privilege of being there. One slip and fall on the ice—a real possibility given some forecasts are calling for light rain—could land ticketholders in the last place they want to be that day—the emergency room. The National Football League is trying to make such a trip less painful by parking a high-tech mobile ER on site at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
The NFL is counting on the Mobile Satellite Emergency Department (MSED) to diagnose and treat sprains, hypothermia and other non-life threatening conditions so that fans can get back to their pricey seats as opposed to watching the rest of the big game on an ER waiting room TV.
“You can imagine how much some of these people are paying for their ticket—it’s a lifetime experience,” says Dr. Joseph Feldman, chairman of Hackensack University Medical Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine. HackensackUMC staffs and operates the MSED, which travels inside a 13-meter semi truck.
The vehicle’s expandable sides enable the hospital to equip the MSED with digital X-ray and ultrasound systems, telemedicine communication equipment and a variety of other medical technology along with seven beds. “Obviously, if someone’s in cardiac arrest at the stadium they’ll go directly to the hospital,” Feldman says. “But if someone is slightly hypothermic due to exposure to the cold or are experiencing cold-induced asthma, where they would need a respiratory treatment to get back to the game... we can take care of them in the MSED.”
HackensackUMC has had the MSED since 2007, but the portable ER’s road to the Super Bowl really began with Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The hospital deployed the vehicle five times during and after the storm, even delivering a premature baby when a laboring mother was unable to get to a Princeton-area hospital. The NFL host committee for this year’s championship game learned of the MSED’s heroics during the hurricane after meeting with staff at HackensackUMC, the closest trauma center to MetLife stadium. From there, discussions led to the possibility of having the MSED on site for the game and the week leading up to it, Feldman says.
Feldman says he and his staff played a key role in designing the vehicle’s medical capabilities. Prior to ordering the mobile ER Feldman and his team visited the Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C., to inspect that facility’s Carolinas MED-1 mobile hospital, which had been deployed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Feldman liked what he saw but thought there could be improvements. The MED-1’s cab is permanently attached to the mobile medical facility, which means that if the vehicle breaks down , the ER is no longer mobile. Feldman also thought it would be more efficient if his hospital’s vehicle made its own oxygen rather than having to rely on ferrying liquid oxygen to a disaster site, as the MED-1 did during Katrina. “We designed these assets to be able to get out the door within an hour,” he says.
The MSED is part of HackensackUMC’s 15-vehicle emergency response fleet, which includes a 14.6-meter truck that serves as an operating room on wheels. Any number of these vehicles can be deployed during an emergency to create a “mobile field hospital with very advanced capabilities,” Feldman says.
To defray some of the $1 million it costs annually to maintain and house the fleet, train the staff and keep the equipment updated, HackensackUMC has proposed to the New Jersey Hospital Association that a consortium of the state's hospitals contribute to the operating costs. In return, the fleet would be available to hospitals throughout the state.
Regardless of where the MSED ends up, ailing fans will surely appreciate its presence at MetLife Stadium this weekend.