Relief is on the way to overwhelmed western NC hospitals

Samaritan's Purse has opened an Emergency Field Hospital in western North Carolina after the coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the region's medical infrastructure. (Photo courtesy Samaritans Purse)

BOONE – International Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse announced last week the opening of a 30-bed emergency field hospital in Lenoir, N.C. As the coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the region’s medical infrastructure, hospitals are reportedly over capacity. The field hospital, specialized as a respiratory care unit, is designed to relieve the burden from five local healthcare systems.

The Boone-based outfit is well-known for its disaster intervention efforts, which its website says “responds in Jesus’ Name to the physical and spiritual needs of individuals in crisis situations—especially in locations where few others are working.” The organization works in more than 100 countries “to provide aid to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution.”

Samaritan’s Purse transported the emergency field hospital from its warehouse in North Wilkesboro, N.C. on Friday. It is adjacent to Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir, with a team of more than 46 disaster response specialists, including 24 medical professionals, who are working around the clock.

“These hospitals have come to us for help because they are full, and case numbers continue to rise,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “This is our home state, and we appreciate the frontline workers battling COVID day in and day out. We are glad that we can be there to help lift the load. Our medical team is going to help provide professional, compassionate, and quality care to every patient who is sent to us.”

For this effort, Samaritan’s Purse is joining five western North Carolina health care systems in the fight against COVID-19, seeking to meet the critical needs of neighboring communities, organization officials say. The partner hospitals will determine which patients are transported to the field hospital.

“This battle against COVID is really a community-wide and region-wide effort. Now, with the arrival of Samaritan’s Purse and the personnel that they are bringing, it is a national effort. It takes all of us working together,” said Laura Easton, president and CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care. “My hope is that we get through this surge and have taken outstanding care of every citizen who has a need.”

In 2020, Samaritan’s Purse deployed three Emergency Field Hospitals to Italy, New York City, and the Bahamas in response to the coronavirus pandemic—treating more than 680 patients at similar respiratory care units. This is only the second time the mobile hospital has been deployed domestically, ready to provide critical aid to coronavirus patients.