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Field Hospitals in fight against coronavirus

A mid the severe shortage of hospital beds due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world, the global demand for providing mobile field hospitals for the treatment of infectious diseases has increased.

Manufacturers are receiving an increasing number of demands to purchase such hospitals. In some cases, countries have resorted to converting conference halls, hotels, showrooms and garages into temporary hospitals to cope with the shortage of beds to treat patients with coronavirus. A number of countries have called in their armed forces, which have begun providing field hospitals to help tackle the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. Accordingly, the French, Serbian, American and Swedish armies as well as their medical staff, intervened and built hospitals in specific areas, in order to face the coronavirus crisis, amid the increasing cases with the imposition of the state of emergency to stop the spread of the virus.

The field hospital has always been an effective and alternative solution in times of crisis, wars and health disasters. It was first used in ancient times, then with time and with technical and medical progress, the world went for luxurious, highly equipped hospitals, responding to the requirements of modern hospitalization, clean environment and high-quality technology.

Currently, in order to face the spread of the coronavirus and the lack of hospital capacity, most countries resorted to the use of field hospitals. This type of hospitals has seen rapid development to meet the requirements of quarantine and artificial respiration. It is worth noting that field hospitals are often used to treat people affected by wars and natural disasters to provide first aid, before transferring them to fixed hospitals for further treatment. 

Realistic examples

The countries in the world, even the wealthy ones, have found themselves unable to meet the requirements of adequate treatment for people with coronavirus, which has spread in a way that exceeds the ability of governments to cope with it. Therefore, these countries sought to provide more possibilities to fight the coronavirus, such as providing ICU beds in hospitals for those affected by the virus. In this regard, temporary hospitals have been established to relieve overcrowded city hospitals and provide treatment facilities for the injured, knowing that these include the latest and most luxurious hospitals in the world, and have set an example in emerging countries.

New York, for instance, has more coronavirus cases than any single country outside the US and death rates exceeded those in China. Therefore, they set up a field hospital in Central Park to help treat the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have been infected with Covid-19. The field hospital, consisting of several white tents, has enough beds to take in 68 patients. It also has 10 respirators. The Jacob Javits Center prepared to open as a medical facility to increase hospital capacity in New York City amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Almost three thousand beds are set up at Javits Center to receive patients who are not suffering from COVID-19.

A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds opens in New York City on Tuesday as the number of deaths and cases in the state from the coronavirus outbreak continues to sharply rise. The USNS Comfort docked at Pier 90 on the West Side of Manhattan.

The Comfort has 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours. New York City’s emergency management office built a 350-bed facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as efforts intensify to supplement hospital space as the U.S. battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain’s first coronavirus field hospital will treat up to 4,000 previously fit and healthy people struck down by Covid-19 once it opens, with sicker patients who are more likely to die being cared for in normal NHS hospitals. It is likely that the outbreak, weeks after its peak there, will put the UK in a critical situation especially as it has the lowest number of hospital beds per thousand in Europe.

Spain has already boosted its hospital beds by 20%. Dozens of hotels across Spain have been turned into recovery rooms, and authorities are building field hospitals in sports centers, libraries and exhibition halls.

Milan opened an intensive care field hospital at the city fairgrounds for 200 patients, complete with a pharmacy and radiology wards. It expects to eventually employ some 900 staff. The move came after the health situation turned extreme in Italy’s Lombardy region, where bodies overflowed in morgues, caskets piled up in churches and doctors were forced to decide in some cases which desperately ill patient would get a breathing machine.

One reason Germany is in better shape than all other European countries is its high proportion of ICU beds, at 33.9 per 100,000 people, compared to 8.6 in Italy.

Back to basics

In response to these developments, the demand for the production of tents intended to be field hospitals and other products has increased. A report published by the Russian military export company, “Rosoboronexport”, stated that the company “received a large number of requests to supply mobile field hospitals to treat infectious diseases. These requests are treated with high priority due to the importance and necessity of these products.”

These products include mobile hospitals with units to diagnose and treat infectious disease, control and disinfection centers, and private halls to isolate and monitor the quarantined persons. They are also equipped to receive up to 300 people. The important thing in these hospitals is that they are self-sufficient and comfortable for the medical staff and patients alike, and they can be installed in a short period of time, ranging from one to 6 days.

According to health monitors, this reality revealed at least two things:

First, the high spending on luxury hospitals has turned out to be ineffective in times of crises. When the conflict raged between the pandemic and the world, it became clear that providing the place of treatment and the necessary equipment is the top priority even if it is inside a tent or garage. It is true that the luxury in providing a service and the patient welfare are important, and attract patients, but not in times of crises. Hospital rooms are no longer limited to the medical condition only, but have become well-equipped to suit different social groups, so hospitals today are more like hotel suites equipped with luxury amenities. Demand for premium rooms around the world is increasing, but these hospitals are very expensive, and not everyone can afford them.

Second, the important need for medical teams, and the insurance of thousands of medical personnel to operate the newly developed field hospitals. The developed world has discovered in this ordeal that its health system and medical capabilities are not that great and perhaps not better than third world countries.

Hospital workers are dealing with a huge influx of patients, while also facing a lack of equipment in many cases and the fear of becoming infected themselves. They said that they went to war without weapons. They underlined the importance of being appropriately kitted out with masks, visors, gloves, scrubs and suits to avoid contagion. A “scary” number of staff would be needed to run the facility at full capacity and appealed for volunteers to come forward, according to Natalie Forrest, Chief Operating Officer of the Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London.

Italy, Britain and France are among countries that have called in medical students, retired doctors and even airplane attendants with first aid training to help, although all need re-training. The medical staffing shortage has been exacerbated by the high number of infected medical personnel. In Italy alone, nearly 10,000 medical workers have been infected and more than 60 doctors have died.

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