Samaritan’s Purse starts building field hospital in Lenoir to help with COVID-19

Updated: Jan. 1, 2021 at 5:32 PM EST
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LENOIR, N.C. (WBTV) - A 30-bed emergency field hospital is being built to provide COVID-19 care support for western North Carolina as the pandemic has worsened this winter.

Samaritan’s Purse officials said they would begin the construction of the hospital on the grounds of Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir on Friday, Jan. 1. Just after 9:30 a.m., the trucks began to arrive at the site.

In the trailers were the makings of a medical field hospital. UNC-Healthcare asked for the help earlier this week as coronavirus cases continued to rise, putting pressure on local hospitals.

None in the foothills has run out of bed space yet but Laura Easton, President and CEO of UNC Healthcare in Lenoir says she felt it prudent to seek help now.

“This is a proactive step,” she said.

The field hospital will provide 30 beds that will be dedicated solely to COVID-19 patients. It will not be an ICU unit, but will have state of the art capability, say officials. Barb Rash, who worked in a Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in Italy during the crisis, says their goal is to relieve some of the pressure local healthcare providers are feeling.

“It we can take some of the weight from them, some of the burden that they are having to carry, so that they can take care of the most critical patients then we’ve really made a difference in the community,” Easton said.

Several tents were raised on Friday, more will be put up over the weekend. Officials hope the facility will be ready to accept patients in the first half of next week.

The unit will provide regional COVID-19 care support, assisting five health systems in western North Carolina:

  • Caldwell UNC Health Care (Lenoir)
  • Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (Boone)
  • Catawba Valley Health System (Hickory)
  • Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge (Morganton)
  • Frye Regional Medical Center (Hickory)

Officials say the Caldwell UNC site was selected for this field hospital due to its central location and ability to provide support services.

Patients receiving treatment at the field hospital will be limited to those who are COVID-19-positive but do not need the support of a ventilator.

“On behalf of all the health systems participating in this effort, I’d like to thank Samaritan’s Purse for making this investment in the well-being of our communities. Planning for this added capacity now will help us provide the level of care our communities need as volumes continue to grow in our region,” noted Easton.

Samaritan’s Purse has previously deployed field hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic in both New York City and Italy.

The organization has agreed to construct, supply and coordinate staffing for the 30-bed field hospital and has received overwhelming interest from medical personnel across the United States who are willing to serve.

“The current volume of COVID patients has spiked in recent weeks and many of the hospitals in this region are operating at maximum capacity. This spike is expected to sustain or accelerate into February and the additional resources the Emergency Field Hospital will provide can help assure we can address the needs of all patients. Samaritan’s Purse will provide the physicians, clinical staff and support teams to provide care in the Emergency Field Hospital. Caldwell UNC will work in collaboration with Samaritan’s Purse to share staff when appropriate,” Phil Bridges, Executive Director, Integrated Communications at UNC Health, said.

Organizers and participating hospitals say more operational details will become available as the field hospital nears completion.

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