Chinese officials have assembled a hospital in just 10 days in response to a new virus that has claimed the lives of at least 427 people and spread abroad to more than 25 countries, including the United States.
The New York Times reports that a new hospital in Wuhan, a city in central China at the heart of the outbreak, which 11 million inhabitants have been barred from leaving, took its first patient affected by the virus on Monday. The hospital holds 1,000 beds and was built in just 10 days. A second facility expected to hold 1,600 beds will be open by February 5 (today).
How did they manage to design and construct a facility so quickly, when many hospitals take years, sometimes even a decade, to build? Seven thousand construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters worked around the clock to assemble the two-story, 600,000-square-foot facility from prefabricated units. The crew wore protective surgical masks and underwent routine temperature checks to ensure that the virus was not spreading among them. Roughly half of the facility is made up of isolation wards, with 30 intensive care units.
To minimize close contact between staff and patients, the facility has double-sided cabinets connecting hallways to patient rooms, so staff can deliver supplies and medication without coming into contact with patients. In some cases, robots will deliver medicine and collect test samples instead of nurses.
A similar facility was constructed in Beijing in 2003 in response to the SARS outbreak and is currently being renovated— the government has not said whether it will be used to treat new coronavirus patients. Though the Chinese government was able to build the new hospitals quickly, at least one question remains: whether it will be able to staff the facilities and adequately treat patients as the virus continues to spread.