With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the U.S., the Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse has set up two emergency field hospitals — one in Southern California and one in North Carolina — to help alleviate pressure on hospitals caring for patients infected by the virus.
Late last week, Samaritan’s Purse opened a 30-bed respiratory care unit in a space adjacent to Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir, North Carolina, where a team of 46 disaster response specialists — to include 24 medical professionals — are working with COVID patients.
Samaritan’s Purse also worked over the weekend to ready a 50-bed tent hospital in Lancaster, California, after officials with the Antelope Valley Hospital and the city of Lancaster reached out to the Christian nonprofit.
Dr. Elliott Tenpenny, director of international health for Samaritan’s Purse, told Faithwire they have had “a wonderful response” from those in Los Angeles County, praising local leaders for being “gracious and helpful” as the charity has worked overtime to set up its respiratory care unit in the hospital’s parking lot.
He said hospital workers and other volunteers from around the city have come out to help Samaritan’s Purse set up its field hospital.
“Folks like this, oftentimes, they feel like they’re on their own,” Tenpenny explained of the frontline workers helping patients battle COVID-19 infections. “They feel like they’re on their own with no help from the outside. And when we’re able to come in and provide that help and provide that service, it’s really a blessing.”
In Lenoir, setting up a tent hospital was an easy call after five health care systems in the state asked Samaritan’s Purse to assist with its overwhelming patient load.
The faith-based organization is headquartered not far from Lenoir, in Boone.
“When a group of five different health systems around the area ask us to come together to help them offload their burden, we were very happy to oblige and to help there,” Tenpenny explained. “We really feel like that’s our home and we want to help as much as possible.”
According to WTVD-TV, North Carolina reported 8,833 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 623,188 infections.
In California, more than 30,000 people have died of the virus so far. And, as of Sunday night, the state was recording an average of 481 deaths per day for the previous week, the Los Angeles Times reported. In Los Angeles specifically, where the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital is located, one person is dying of COVID-19 every eight minutes, according to the charity.
A cargo jet full of supplies from Samaritan’s Purse was dispatched Monday from North Carolina to Southern California.
The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center has documented a total of 375,250 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
Tenpenny said part of the benefit of the presence of Samaritan’s Purse in both North Carolina and California is “in taking the burden of these patients off of the hospitals,” adding, “It gives them a little bit of breathing room, gives them the ability to stand back and to take a breath and be able to reevaluate where they are as a community.”
The Samaritan’s Purse doctor encouraged people to continue practicing the mitigation efforts put in place around the country, such as wearing masks, maintaining distance from others, limiting gatherings, and frequently washing our hands.
“[The thing] greater than everything else is prayer,” he added. “Prayer for the patients that are sick, prayer for the families that have lost loved ones, prayer for those around the community, that this would not spread any further.”
Last spring, Samaritan’s Purse set up a field hospital in Central Park in New York City.