THE charity Samaritan’s Purse, run by the evangelist Franklin Graham, has opened two emergency field hospitals in the countries hardest hit by Covid-19, the United States and Italy.
The first hospital opened outside Cremona Hospital, in northern Italy, at the end of last month, and was immediately overwhelmed. The 600-bed hospital had been overflowing with patients, one hundred of whom were its own medical staff.
Samaritan’s Purse, which has experience of setting up emergency field hospitals for the Ebola-virus epidemic in Africa, was invited by the Italian government to create its own 68-bed hospital in the grounds of Cremona Hospital. It is staffed by more than 60 disaster-response specialists, and has ten intensive-care beds with ventilators.
The minister of health for the Lombardy region, Giulio Gallera, said at the hospital’s opening: “You are a bright light — the first bright light in our dark sky.”
The UK executive director of Samaritan’s Purse, Darren Tosh, said that the Italian hospital was already full, but that, of the ten patients on ventilation, two were being “stepped down” to breathe again on their own. Up until now, no patients in the intensive-care wards in Cremona Hospital had survived the virus.
He said that the charity’s medical and other staff offered patients physical relief, but also emotional and spiritual support. A team of chaplains are also at the hospital.
“They are finding a tremendous desire from people to receive prayer and the peace that comes from it,” Mr Tosh said. “Spiritual relief is sorely needed as there is so much fear.”
The charity’s second 68-bed field hospital is in Central Park, New York, which is the epicentre of the outbreak in the United States. It took its first patients on Tuesday.
Samaritan’s Purse medics come from across the world and many have worked in multiple emergency situations. All are aware of the risks they are taking on, Mr Tosh said.
“They are courageous and passionate and do it all in the name of Jesus; they are passionately living out their faith as they work.”
The charity also sent medical equipment to China last month, to help with their response, and it has sent thousands of items of personal protective equipment to hospitals in the United States.