Local News

Samaritan's Purse building field hospital to help with surge in COVID patients in western NC

Posted January 1, 2021 2:29 p.m. EST
Updated January 1, 2021 7:08 p.m. EST

— Samaritan’s Purse began erecting a 30-bed, emergency field hospital outside Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir on Friday to help address the rising numbers of COVID-19 patients in the region.

The field hospital also will serve Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in Boone, Catawba Valley Health System in Hickory, Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge in Morganton and Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory. The Lenoir site was chosen for the unit because it's centrally located and can provide support services, officials said.

Patients receiving treatment at the field hospital will be limited to those who test positive for coronavirus but don't need the support of a ventilator, officials said.

"We have done this all over the world, and the team is well equipped to get it set up as quickly as possible, and it usually only takes us a few days," said Melissa Strickland, a spokeswoman for the Boone-based relief organization headed by Franklin Graham. "These hospitals have been in war zones, earthquake zones. We’ve responded to hurricanes, so they know what they’re doing. They’ve done it a few times."

Samaritan's Purse has built field hospitals in Italy, New York City and the Bahamas during the pandemic, but the Lenoir facility is the first hospital in the second wave of virus cases.

"We wish that we didn’t have to be here. Obviously, it’s not a happy occasion to have to set one of these up on our own backyard," Strickland said. "These are our friends and our neighbors, and we feel very privileged to be able to support our own communities."

The group plans to supply and coordinate staffing for the Lenoir hospital, and officials said there has been "overwhelming interest from medical personnel across the United States who are willing to serve."

"We have a roster of specially trained medical specialists. They’re disaster trained by us to operate one of these emergency field hospitals," Strickland said. "When we do a deployment like this, we reach out to that roster of staff."

COVID-19 County Alert System

Caldwell and Catawba counties are in a "red zone" under North Carolina's three-tier alert system because of critical spread of coronavirus in the community. Burke and Watauga counties are "orange zones," with substantial viral spread. The state rates the strain on most hospitals in region as "moderate," although the virus in Burke County is listed as having a low impact on hospitals.

Strickland said the hospitals reached out to Samaritan's Purse for assistance to provide some extra capacity for patients.

"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," Laura Easton, president and chief executive of Caldwell UNC Health Care, said in a statement. "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."

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