LENOIR, N.C. — Samaritan's Purse's emergency field hospital in Lenoir will be opening to COVID-19 patients Thursday morning.
The 30-bed field hospital is the only one of its kind that will be running in the United States once it begins accepting patients.
The hospital, which is located next to Caldwell UNC Healthcare, is designed to relieve bed capacity at five hospital systems in the Foothills. They are Catawba Valley Health System, Caldwell UNC Health Care, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge, and Frye Regional Medical Center.
Erin Holzhauer, the medical director of the emergency field hospital, said COVID-19 cases are projected to surge in the coming weeks.
"After that follows hospital admissions," Holzhauer said. "We're hoping that we're getting here just in time to be able to relieve enough pressure to keep hospitals from tipping over the edge."
The unit will accept patients who are COVID-positive but do not need the support of a ventilator.
The wards will have electricity, water and heat. Samaritan's Purse said it added additional steps to its construction process because of the possibility of snow.
The nonprofit has built similar emergency field hospitals in New York City's Central Park and Italy.
North Carolina's DHHS numbers show more than a thousand inpatient beds in the mountain counties are currently in use with just over 900 beds either empty, unreported, or unstaffed.
Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms shouldn't go directly to the field hospital and should instead go to their primary care provider or emergency room.