Members of the Biomed White team (l to r) Glenn Wong, Indy Diocee, John Dixon and Brandon Lam pose in their workshop.

Life underground: spotlight on Biomed

The basement corridors stretching from the Diamond Health Care Centre to the BC Cancer Agency, and connecting all VGH campus buildings in-between, are more than a way to get from one place to the next. The tunnel is also home to several departments, including the Biomedical Engineering Department.

Biomedical Engineering Department (Biomed)

Location: Biomed is located in the basement of JPP South; however, technologists can be found across the hospital installing, testing and fixing medical devices and equipment.

Staff: 49

Hours of operation: 24/7

What is Biomed and what do they do? 

Biomedical Technologist Nicole Ni tagging equipment.

The VGH team is the largest in the province and is responsible for more than 13,000 medical devices (large and small) during their entire lifespan, from planning and purchasing through installation, maintenance and finally retirement and disposal. Biomed staff are responsible for everything from anesthesia machines to thermometers across the campus.

Currently, the team is working on a project that will replace all of the hospital’s infusion pumps — that’s more than 1,500 pumps used to infuse fluids, medications, blood and blood products to patients.

How does Biomed support the delivery of quality patient care?  

The Biomed team is critical to providing quality patient care. As part of the equipment planning group, the team works with clinical areas to purchase the equipment they need.

Once purchased and installed, the team ensures medical devices are working correctly so that clinical staff can safely perform procedures on patients and monitor their physical condition.

How does Biomed support innovation in health care?

In addition to maintaining and calibrating the devices, the Biomed team provides a vital link by teaching clinical staff how to use devices.

The Biomed team is at the forefront of innovation at VGH, researching and purchasing the latest medical devices. The team also designs medical devices, like the Hyperbaric Chamber, to support patient care and ground-breaking research.

VGH Hyperbaric chamber

Hyperbaric Chamber

The VGH Hyperbaric Unit (HBU) maintains one of the busiest hyperbaric programs in Canada and runs the only hospital-based hyperbaric chamber in BC — thanks to the Biomed team.

The giant machine — 27 feet long by 9 feet in diameter — runs 24/7/365 treating patients with conditions from diabetes to carbon monoxide poisoning. The chamber creates a pressurized environment that perfuses blood and tissues with high levels of oxygen, speeding up wound healing and pushing carbon monoxide out of the body. The chamber is also part of the first-ever trial investigating its potential benefit in stroke patients.

Biomed is responsible for maintaining the chamber and planning modifications and additions to the system, including modifying pumps and electronic gadgets to withstand the pressurized environment. A few years ago, the team built specialized headphones to allow patients to watch DVDs in the chamber during their treatments.

What else happens in Biomed?

Biomedical Technologist Indy Diocee holding up the squirt bottle in question.

Servicing highly complex devices is all in a day’s work for the folks in Biomed. However, sometimes they also maintain very simple equipment. As biomedical technologist Indy Diocee recalls, “The weirdest thing I’ve had to do was to evaluate the pressure coming out of a squeeze bottle. This is outside of what we normally do, but I used a formula based on distance and trajectory to see how much volume would be coming out.”

Did you know?

  • Each year, the team hosts practicum students from Uganda (where the Biomedical Engineering program is fairly new). Students learn from our world-class team and bring their knowledge back home to improve patient care.
  • Biomed has donated retired equipment to areas in need, including Haiti and Syria.
  1. marcela

    Super! I learnt a lot about BIOMED At VGH. where I have been working for 10 years and I did not know about this unique departement. Thanks for the info

    February 16, 2018
  2. Art Mallinson, VGH Neuro-otology

    It is truly amazing (and should be documented) to think of the millions of dollars the Biomed staff have saved the hospital over the years. They form an extremely valuable team whose members are often highly subspecialized, and very effective at solving problems, and the response time for crises (of which we have had quite a few over the years) is unparalleled. They are, without question, an indispensable facet of the hospital.

    February 16, 2018
  3. Lois Budd

    Biomed is an amazing department. They do an excellent job of maintaining equipment throughout the hospitals. In the Hyperbaric Unit they not only maintain the equipment/chamber but they run it. Their attention to safety is a role model that everyone could follow. I am so glad Biomed has been featured in the VCH news!

    February 15, 2018