Special: Battle against the new coronavirus
Workers set up beds and clean the site of a makeshift hospital at the Changchun International Exhibition Center in Changchun, Jilin Province, March 5, 2022. (Photo by Zhang Yao/China News Service)
Preparations underway for future virus outbreaks, other emergencies
Building more makeshift hospitals in advance and setting aside some as permanent facilities is a precautionary measure to combat potential resurgences of COVID-19 and other health emergencies, officials and experts say.
They said early preparation would involve designing layouts to prevent cross-infection, training healthcare workers to quickly adapt to such a medical environment, and stocking enough medical equipment.
Makeshift hospitals have been repurposed mostly from public places such as exhibition centers or stadiums to isolate and treat mild COVID-19 patients. They were first built during the first wave of the nationwide outbreak centered in Hubei province in early 2020 and have since been adopted by many cities affected by the virus.
During the process of fighting the virus since March, Ma Xiaowei, minister of the National Health Commission, said permanent makeshift hospitals should be prepared to ensure they can be activated quickly in case of an emergency. health emergency.
Data released by the commission showed that as of April 25, there were nearly 400 makeshift hospitals with 560,000 beds, compared to 33 with 35,000 beds as of March 22.
“Building makeshift hospitals is definitely not a sign of the epidemic getting worse,” said Guo Yanhong, an official with the commission’s medical administration office. “Rather, it targets Omicron’s high infectiousness and aims to stop its spread with faster action to isolate all infected cases.”
These facilities can also play an important role in the fight against other major public health events, while maintaining their operation for other purposes in normal times, she told a press conference.
Zhao Hongjia, head of the Fujian Provincial People’s Hospital Party, said that given the recent development of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary and important for makeshift hospitals to exist in the long term.
“The planning of makeshift hospitals should be more comprehensive and meticulous in the future,” said Zhao, who was also one of the leaders of the medical aid team sent from Fujian to Shanghai.
An important consideration is preventing the risk of cross infection.
“Once they are put into use, the risk of cross-infection must be considered in a number of aspects, from the design of passageways for patients and medical personnel, transport routes for medical waste , as well as the sewage disposal channels,” she says.
Chen Erzhen, vice president of Ruijin Hospital affiliated with Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine and head of the city’s medical treatment teams at quarantine facilities, said the early planning of hospitals to fortune is essential based on past experiences.
“The old makeshift hospitals started operating as soon as they became available, so a series of problems emerged early on,” he said. “As a result, we should make early preparations in advance, such as drawing a plan based on existing public infrastructure to save time in an emergency.”
Chen also suggested that local city planners incorporate emergency preparedness into the planning of major construction projects, as part of efforts to combat not only virus outbreaks but other possible disasters as well.
Even though makeshift hospitals are designed to receive only asymptomatic or mild patients, Zhao, from Fujian province, said health workers working there should receive targeted training.
“Training should be strengthened in terms of managing and operating makeshift hospitals, and caring for patients in such settings,” she said. “If the environment and operation of such an establishment can be improved and reassure patients, they will recover more quickly.”
Public records showed that a growing number of cities in Henan, Shandong, Jiangxi and Jilin provinces have started building dedicated makeshift hospitals.
Wang Shuiping, head of the Jiangxi Provincial Health Commission, told a press conference in mid-May that the province would step up efforts to build permanent makeshift hospitals, while encouraging the establishment of hospitals. makeshift facilities or affiliated with other healthcare establishments. .
In Jilin city, Jilin province, one of the few makeshift hospitals built during a recent wave of COVID-19 that hit the city is being made permanent, according to a post on the website. city government official at the end of April.
The hospital, which covers 3.5 hectares, was renovated from a driving school and has more than 2,100 beds, according to the article.
Chen Ye, general manager of Yinhong Modular House, a company that has been involved in building makeshift hospitals throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, said he recently received a call from Henan Province. requesting information on permanent makeshift hospitals.
“Such hospitals should in theory be built in masonry, but that would be more expensive and take longer to build, so modular homes remain the first choice,” he said.
Chen said he recently observed a trend of integrating makeshift hospitals into budget hotels.
“For example, an ongoing makeshift hospital project in Nanjing, Jiangsu province was canceled as the local outbreak was contained quickly,” he said. “Later it was decided that the project would be transformed into a four-star hotel which could also be quickly transformed into a hospital in the event of a health emergency.”