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30-bed emergency field hospital to open in Lenoir, as Carolinas report record hospitalizations

Officials said the unit will help support the treatment of patients who are COVID-positive but do not need the support of a ventilator.

LENOIR, N.C. — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to tax healthcare workers across the Carolinas, crews with Samaritan's Purse are finalizing construction of a 30-bed emergency field hospital on the grounds of the Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir, North Carolina. The facility is expected to open mid-week.

According to the Catawba Valley Medical Center, Samaritan’s Purse began the construction on Jan.1. The unit will help support the needs of Catawba Valley Health System, Caldwell UNC Health Care, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge, and Frye Regional Medical Center.

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Officials said the unit will accept patients who are COVID-positive but do not need the support of a ventilator. 

Two of the four field hospital tents went up on Friday morning. There will be power, electricity and water, and the inside of the tents will look just like a hospital ward.

“On behalf of all the health systems participating in this effort, I’d like to thank Samaritan’s Purse for making this investment in the well-being of our communities," said Laura Easton, President and CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care. "Planning for this added capacity now will help us provide the level of care our communities need as volumes continue to grow in our region."

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"Western North Carolina is seeing a lot of COVID-19 cases, and the hospitals are all at capacity. So, they reached out to Samaritan’s Purse to see if we might be able to help,” said Kaitlyn Lahm, with Samaritan’s Purse.

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The development comes as both North and South Carolina continue to set coronavirus-related hospitalization records. Monday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,635 patients, which was the state's highest patient count of the pandemic. South Carolina reported 2,155 patients, also a record for the state.

“We're glad that we can be here and be a support to the hospitals in the area and relieve a burden and spread some hope,” said Damon Tripp, who is overseeing the build.

Samaritan’s Purse has provided pandemic relief all over the world. In March, the organization built similar hospitals in New York City and Italy, but currently, the new Lenoir facility is the only field hospital the organization has in the country. 

It is a sign of how dire the situation is for rural hospitals.

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“The Caldwell UNC health care system reached out to Samaritan’s Purse to see if we would be able to support, able to bring added capacity. So thankfully we have an emergency field hospital ready for rapid deployment and this was the right place to set it up,” said Lahm.

The last 10 months have taken a toll on the area, but now the healthcare heroes inside of Caldwell Memorial Hospital can look out the window and see a helping hand and a glimmer of hope in this battle.

"Many of the staff that I’ve encountered, they're working really hard, can't get a break,” said Tripp. "They're not in it alone. The saying that, 'We're all in this together,' we are, and we want to be there,” said Tripp.

"It is a bit surreal to be doing it really in our own backyard but a privilege to be able to come alongside the local community and really right with our neighbors and provide that surge capacity,” said Lahm.

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