The MMU on the Move

It’s no secret that Iridia’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) project has been a significant focus for Iridia for the past nine months. It was a substantial undertaking and getting the Unit into camp and ensuring it was running smoothly required significant effort by a number of Iridia team members. We were happy that the doctors were comfortable, the Unit was humming along smoothly, and that all the rotations for 2013 were filled. Just when we thought we could relax, we received word that the MMU was going to have to be moved to a new location within the camp. What follows are the accounts from Tom Puddicombe (Director of Business Operations), and Iridia Founder, Dr. Allan Holmes, as they undertook the adventure of getting this complex Unit from point A to point B!


We like to describe the MMU as an RV on steroids with complex hook-ups for water and sewer, hydraulics for moving the sides out and a whole series of scary looking jacks to support the weight of the sides.

When we received word in late August that the Unit would need to be moved in late September, we immediately started the process of planning out the different components that would be involved with the move as we knew that this was going to be a complex and challenging project.  This included securing one of the drivers who had originally brought the MMU into camp.  The plans were coming together well and all was looking good.

However, on September 11, a phone message was received to call the camp immediately. Upon returning the call, we learned that the MMU was to be moved in 3 days’ time, not at the end of the month for which we had planned! We took a moment to catch our breath and then quickly revised the plans we had so carefully laid out. The driver was called off, Allan and I were hastily recruited to assist with the actual move, flights were immediately booked for the next day and off we went. We flew to Fort Nelson Thursday morning (September 12) in preparation for our helicopter ride to camp the following morning.

photo (3)

We were fortunate to have beautiful sunny weather on the Friday we arrived and immediately began the process of boxing, labelling and waiting for the moving truck. Dr. Denis Thibodeau, one of our MMU physicians, was in camp to help with the move. The goal was to have as much equipment as possible moved out of the Unit by the end of the day. By 6:30 that evening, the Unit was almost empty except for the beds.

Saturday was the official move day and we planned for a 1pm move. At this point, we still had to move the beds out, take down the interior walls, and bump in the side so it would look like a regular truck trailer. The move was only 100 metres but it felt like 100 miles! We got an early start and began the process of collapsing the Unit. In order to do this correctly, we needed to close one side half way, move to other side and close it completely and then return to the original side to push it closed. This being our first time closing the walls, we were more than a little cautious – the last thing we wanted was an overturned truck. Thankfully we were able to get the walls closed without incident. It seemed as though we’d have the Unit moved in no time. Then the fun started.

photo (4)

Moving the Unit was a mammoth task and we encountered a number of pretty significant, unforeseeable challenges in the process, however, with resourcefulness, some good problem solving skills and the help of a number of trucking experts within the camp, we managed to troubleshoot the problems and move the Unit approximately 100 metres to its new position. After our success in taking down the Unit, we felt confident we could set it up without issues and we were right. The walls were opened, the jacks set and the Unit was levelled without any difficulty. Thanks to all – including special thanks to the Facility Safety Hand in camp – who assisted us with the various aspects and challenges of the actual move.

By this time it was getting dark and the beds were still sitting on the matting at the old location – the 2 hour delay in moving the Unit had not helped us. Saturday is steak and prawns night in camp and we knew the staff wouldn’t want to miss this weekly culinary treat, so we broke and joined the group for dinner.

photo (1)

After a dinner equalling the finer steak houses in Omaha, Nebraska, we headed back out to the Unit. Thankfully it was still light until 9pm so we took advantage of a few more hours of daylight.  We hadn’t anticipated becoming a special dinner for the bugs who happily feasted on us during the dusk period.  As with many other aspects of the troubleshooting during the move, we “bootstrapped” our approach to the moving of the very heavy hospital beds.  I am not sure this is in the Stryker manual but why not transport the beds by strapping them to a plywood covered pallet and then moving them with a ‘bobcat’ across the yard?  While not an elegant process – dirty roads are very bumpy – it was efficient. The beds were moved one at a time and we managed to get them into the unit by 9pm as darkness was setting in. As we headed off to bed, we knew the heavy lifting was complete and that we could use Sunday to clean and setup the unit to its original form.  We are proud to say we were back in operation with only a six-hour window where the MMU was not accessible if an emergency came up.

Sunday’s pace was much more leisurely. We started with a lovely eggs benedict breakfast and then Tom was able to dispel the myth with his wife about not being able to clean, by cleaning the entire interior of the unit, including scrubbing the walls and floors. Then we brought in the equipment. By the time we sat down for turkey dinner – Thanksgiving came early – we had completed the job.

The weekend was a busy but satisfying one. With a good team working hard, and solving problems on the fly, the move was completed in a short three days.

Now that we are home, we hope that we won’t have to do another move like that for at least a few more years.

Northern Health Responds to “Where are the Men?

In 2010 a report by Dr. Bowering, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Health called out loudly, “Where are the Men.” In this report, Dr. Bowering highlighted many prominent health challenges for men living in northern BC, including higher rates of:

  • Cancer
  • Suicide
  • Occupational deaths
  • Chronic disease

Why do we see higher rates in the north than elsewhere in the province? There are many factors that determine whether people are healthy, but living conditions, income, employment, education, housing, food, sex and gender, the environment, personal skills all contribute, as well as lower access rates of health care.

health factors

Northern Health has responded with a commitment to men’s health through the creation of programs that improve health outcomes.

To make this a reality, Northern Health identified the following key themes:

  • Health care systems that recognize the need to value men and their role in the community
  • The need for safe space for men to speak about their health
  • Identifying a direct connection between men’s health and their ability to work
  • A stronger emphasis on the health component of health and safety
  • Partnerships with Industry, WorkSafe BC and other stakeholders
  • Men’s health will improve when men become a part of the conversation
  • Men need information about their bodies to keep them healthy
  • A men’s health program should adopt a holistic and inclusive approach

Today we can see Northern Health’s commitment in action with the Northern BC Man Challenge – an exciting and interactive website that challenges men to become more engaged with their health and wellness, in turn, asking “where are the men?”

The Northern BC Man Challenge was created to respond to the concerns raised by men living in northern BC during their community consultation, in which they expressed a need for communication tools that engage men in a straight forward, pragmatic, and fun way to address health concerns.

Iridia Medical is enthusiastic that this initiative, along with the commitment from Northern Health will benefit many men who live in BC’s northern communities.

Iridia is actively involved with communities in northern BC and employs many paramedics who work in the oil and gas industry – we will work closely with our paramedics to support this program and future wellness programs from Northern Health.

Learn more:


A Journey North

My second trip to north this year has come to an end and I’m back to sunny Vancouver. Sunny you say? It is actually beautiful and sunny as I write this on the 9th of November and I can barely believe my eyes.

This trip was longer than usual – 3 nights instead of 2 – and was great. Things got off to a good start with an uneventful trip to Ft. Nelson. While cool, at -12, it was sunny and clear.

I had the pleasure of driving to camp with Ginette, one of our PCPs. She has been a regular in camp for the past year and knows the road well. She handled all the radio duties while I drove. The road conditions could not have been better for gravel roads. They are frozen solid and very firm. With little snow on them, I had to be conscious of my speed. 80km/hr is the max and after all the emails I’ve sent reminding people not to speed it was time for me to walk the walk.

When we finally made it to camp, some 2.4hrs later, it was almost time for dinner. We greeted the other members of the team and found our rooms.

The food in camps can be interesting. Because the workers are typically doing labour intensive work, there is usually lots of food available and there is usually gravy! This night was no different – gravy was on order. I’m afraid it wasn’t my favorite meal but it was quickly forgotten with a prime rib dinner on day 2.

The next day I had my first rig tour. It was fascinating to climb the stairs to the rig floor. We were lucky enough to be there when the action started. The drill bit had to have a bearing replaced. As the drill was removed, the men got to work. This is not a job for those afraid of getting dirty! There is black colored fluid everywhere.

The guys move quickly and efficiently to replace the broken part and within a few minutes the bearing has been replaced and drilling resumes. If you ever get a chance to tour a drilling rig don’t pass it up.

The following day I headed was due to head to Ft. St. John. I good drive out and was in Ft. Nelson with plenty of time to spare. I visited the local library to get internet access – Rogers doesn’t work in Ft. Nelson – and reconnect to the world. After a couple hours I headed to the airport. The first thing I did was drop my rental keys in the drop box.

At check in, I was notified that the plane was going to be 2 hours late and did I want to leave the airport? Yes, I’d love to leave the airport but sadly I don’t have access to my truck anymore. Oh well, I guess I had better get comfy.

The plane arrived ‘early’ when it landed after 1.5hrs instead of two. The fun continued in Ft. St. John when the rental agency was closed. After a wait someone arrived and I was off to camp again. This drive was not as idyllic as my drive with Ginette. It was dark (8pm) and snowing. What a great combo! The good news is that for the most part the snow was not sticking to the ground and I made it camp. I had a good visit with Mark, the night ACP.

This morning started with breakfast with the whole team – night and day medics. We had a good visit and I had a chance to catch up with a safety advisor I had met nearly 5 years ago on my first trip to camp. By 10 in the morning it was time to hit the road again for the airport. I’m happy to report that my flight back to Vancouver was uneventful.

While I always enjoy my trips up north, getting home is even better.

Until the spring!

– Tom

View the slideshow


Fun, Laughter and Motivation at Womens Weekend 2012

Iridia is a provider of paramedic services to the resource exploration industry in northern British Services. As such, we are often working in small communities in remote regions.

These northern communities are full of those who we call an extension of the Iridia team here in the Lower Mainland.

We believe it is important to invest in these communities; they make it possible for us to deliver high-quality care to workers in the surrounding oil and gas industry. We are committed to social responsibility; after all, it is one of our core values. 

“We believe that the bottom line is not the sole measure of company success. As a responsible player in the global marketplace, we are committed to running our business in a way that is socially responsible, environmentally sustainable, and economically profitable.”

Womens Weekend

Fort Nelson is one community we are actively involved in and recently we were provided with an opportunity to reach out and give a little back for womens weekend.

In February, Fort Nelson was to host its annual Women’s Weekend. When we heard about the chance to become a sponsor of the event, we jumped on it.


The goal of Fort Nelson’s Women’s Weekend is to bring women together to meet and establish relationships amongst all women in Fort Nelson and provide a safe, nurturing environment in which women can explore their own potential while learning from one another.

The event was a success with over 200 attendees. The women were able to enjoy a wide variety of activities including first nation’s history, photography, glass fusing and self defense. Also on hand was keynote speaker Linda Edgecomb, a motivational speaker for women.

Women’s Weekend helps to build lasting support networks in the community of Fort Nelson. Women, who have never imagined sharing their talents, find themselves starting volunteering, facilitating workshops and some go on to start their own small businesses.

Iridia is excited to have been a part of the 2012 Women’s Weekend. We are thankful to the planning committee for organizing a wonderful event and allowing us the opportunity to get involved.