Sunday, January 29, 2023

Samaritan’s Purse hospital in Lenoir aids 78 COVID-19 patients, UNC Health says

The emergency field hospital established two weeks ago by the Samaritan’s Purse nonprofit in Lenoir has treated 78 patients and expects to be open for another 10 to 14 days, says Laura Eason, CEO of Caldwell UNC Hospital.

It took seven days to build the 30-bed field hospital in the parking lot of the Lenoir hospital. It meets the same patient safety rules as brick-and-mortar sites after inspections from local and state officials, Eason said during a Tuesday meeting of the UNC Health Board of Directors. About 45 Samaritan Purse staffers are working at the site at no cost to the hospitals, complemented by UNC employees.

The UNC hospital and four other area hospitals requested Samaritan’s Purse’s assistance in December after a spike in COVID-19 cases overwhelmed their facilities in northwest North Carolina. The Lenoir hospital’s patient count soared to 126 in late December, compared with a normal peak of 80, she said. The number of virus-related patients increased from 19 to 49 during the week before Christmas, she said.

The hospitals have also struggled with staffing.  About 7% of UNC Caldwell’s staff has been on quarantine at some time.

Eason said the experience has shown her that “UNC Health can be extraordinarily agile and serve the community very well.”

Samaritans Purse is an evangelical Christian relief organization led since 1978 by Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham. It has provided assistance in more than 100 nations.

Separately, UNC Health officials said the number of COVID-19 inpatients has declined sharply over the last week. The system’s model projects a steady decline over the next five months to fewer than 50 on July 1. New varieties of the virus could change those projections, officials said.


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