BEIRUT: The first field hospital opened in Beirut Thursday, following Tuesday's devastating explosion that put several major hospitals out of use.
The Russia-funded field hospital is located at Beirut Municipal Stadium and holds between 100 and 150 beds, according to an estimate from Public Health Ministry advisor, Reda al-Moussawi in a conversation with The Daily Star. Lebanon is set to open five more field hospitals in the coming days, funded by Qatar, Morocco, Jordan and Iran, according to Moussawi.
The explosion that killed at least 145 and wounded over 5,000 rendered a number of major hospitals inoperative precisely at the moment when they were in urgent need. "The hospital is in total chaos, we've had to shut down," said a doctor at St. George Hospital in Geitawi, on the night of the explosion, amid frantic scenes, as hospital staff and ambulances rushed to evacuate patients.
Geitawi's University Hospital was also severely affected. "Almost all clinical areas were damaged," patient safety adviser Melody Saikali told The Daily Star. "Glass, ceilings, plumbing, ER damage. All patients were evacuated following the explosion except those in too critical a condition," she continued. The hospital had 200 in-house patients when the explosion occurred.
According to Moussawi, three hospitals were rendered unusable by the blast; Quarantina government hospital, St. George Hospital and Wardieh hospital. He noted that Geitawi University Hospital's ER section remained operational. Moussawi estimates that hundreds of patients were evacuated following the blast. "Non-critical patients were sent to hospitals outside Beirut," he said.
The field hospital at Beirut Municipal Stadium was announced today by the Public Health Ministry and another hospital funded by Iran is set to open imminently at LAU's main campus in Beirut, according to Moussawi.
al-Moussawi did not state clearly which patients the field hospitals would tend to, but indicated they would largely be for those wounded from the blast. He pointed to the dual-consideration of those wounded from Tuesday and the impact the incident will have on the COVID-19 situation in Lebanon. Lebanon registered a record number of 255 cases Thursday, despite no testing taking place in Beirut in the preceding 24 hours. "In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, COVID-19 procedures were understandably neglected. There was not enough PPE in hospitals." He went on to predict that the number of cases will likely rise further in ten days to two weeks. "If necessary the field hospitals can be used to treat COVID-19 patients. The same field hospital can be for both, or just for COVID-19," he said.
However, while the impetus for the temporary hospitals stems from Tuesday's disaster, head of the Syndicate of Hospitals, Sleiman Haroun, spurned these efforts as too late, saying, "We don't need them." According to Haroun, Beirut hospitals are not over-burdened from the blast but have successfully tended to the injured. "The hospitals are not overcrowded. They are almost full because of the huge amount of injuries from the blast. But the peak has passed and the situation is improving. Patients are going home," he claimed. He finished by lamenting the establishment of field hospitals, saying that medical supplies were far more important.