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NEWS | Workers race against time to build 'high-speed' hospitals

与大家共同抗疫的 地大国教院

By Zhou Lihua, Liu Kun, Peng Yining and Zhao Yimeng | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-01 07:55


Huoshenshan Hospital takes shape in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Jan 30, 2020. [Photo/for China Daily]


Construction of temporary infirmaries for coronavirus patients is underway, with two new facilities

A livestream shows trucks, earthmoving equipment and building work in full swing at the construction site of two special hospitals in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The footage illustrates how the two facilities are starting to take shape after just a few days of construction work.

On Jan 24, the Wuhan government announced it would build a 1,000-bed infirmary, named Huoshenshan, or "Fire God Mountain", Hospital, to treat people diagnosed with the virus. The first building of the complex, which will eventually cover 25,000 square meters, was completed in just 16 hours.

The city also announced construction of a 1,500-bed facility-Leishenshan, or "Thunder God Mountain", Hospital-to ease the shortage of beds for coronavirus patients.

A man chats with a truck driver at Huoshenshan. [Photo/for China Daily]


Huoshenshan is scheduled to come into operation on Monday and Leishenshan will follow three days later.

As workers rushed to build the units at "Chinese speed", medical professionals and designers said they would ensure the facilities were safe and reliable, despite the race against time.

In 2003, as head of Beijing's Xiaotangshan Hospital, Zhang Yanling saw an emergency facility built from scratch in just seven days to help contain an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in the capital.

Last week, the 68-year-old traveled to Wuhan as an advisor on the construction of the two prefabricated hospitals.

"The new facilities have better designs and higher standards than Xiaotangshan Hospital," he told China National Radio.

"They will play a significant role in fighting the coronavirus," he said in the interview, adding that the new facilities will be professional hospitals for infectious diseases, rather than simply units to receive and quarantine patients. "They have to meet the highest standards."

The construction site at Huoshenshan Hospital on Jan 24, 2020. [Photo/for China Daily]


Peng Guanping, technical director of the sewage disposal systems for the new hospitals, said, "As the disease is highly infectious, our standards are even higher than usual."

He noted that while the normal time for sterilization of medical wastewater is 90 minutes, the new hospitals' disposal systems will allow five hours.

Those standards will not only apply to medical wastewater, as an impermeable membrane will ensure that even rainwater washing through the facilities will be treated.

"Every single drop of water discharged from the two hospitals will be sterilized to make sure it won't cause new infections," Peng said.

Having gained great experience of medical wastewater disposal during more than 10 years in the field, he said the Wuhan project is the biggest challenge of his career. That's because disposal systems on this scale normally take at least 60 days to complete, but this time the work will have to be finished within 10 days.

"As we are facing a totally new virus, we have to be careful and we have to come up with our best plan," he said.

Work continues during the night at the Leishenshan site on Jan 29. [Photo/for China Daily]


Special grant

The National Development and Reform Commission has allocated a special grant of 300 million yuan ($43 million) for the two facilities, according to a notice posted on its website on Monday.

During a visit to the Huoshenshan Hospital site on Monday, Premier Li Keqiang-who is head of the leading group of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on prevention and control of the coronavirus-called for construction to be accelerated.

Since the first case was reported late last year, the coronavirus has spread much faster than expected. On the Chinese mainland, the number of confirmed cases climbed from 571 to 9,692 from Jan 23 to Thursday, meaning there are more coronavirus cases than there were SARS cases during the 2003 outbreak, which resulted in 774 deaths in 17 countries.

The technical drawings for the two new Wuhan hospitals were drawn up in just 60 hours by a team of 60 designers, including experts who worked on Xiaotangshan Hospital. Every piece of work in the project is counted in hours, not days.

Workers erect a building for Huoshenshan Hospital on Jan 28, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]


Xia Ping, general director of construction for both hospitals, said that despite the time constraints, every effort is being made to ensure construction quality.

"We have hundreds of quality inspectors to check every building frame, every welding point," Xia said.

Xiang Hui, director of construction at Leishenshan Hospital, said the facility has been designed to protect both the medical professionals who will work in it and local residents.

"It is a temporary emergency facility, but it has to meet the standards for a permanent hospital," Xiang said."It can't be a source of infection."

He added that the builders are racing against time, but they are not neglecting crucial details, such as cleaning and sterilization work.

Workers eat instant noodles during a break in the construction of Huoshenshan Hospital. [Photo/Xinhua]


Two days after the launch of the Leishenshan project, 30 out of a projected 500 prefabricated buildings had arrived at the site from Suzhou in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

Chen Ye, one of the suppliers, said the remaining 470 buildings will be in place by Saturday.

"Time is life. We are racing against death," said Chen, who participated in rescue efforts after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 people. "But quality and safety are also important, as we are building medical facilities."

He said inpatient wards and intensive care units require extremely high standards of cleanliness and impermeability, and his factory in Suzhou is working around the clock to produce top-quality facilities. He has ordered 1,200 facemasks to protect the company's 15 employees who are working at the construction site.

"We are assembling most of the buildings in our factory to shorten the workers' exposure time in Wuhan. It saves time and is safer for the workers," he said."Efficiency and safety are not contradictory."

Builders carry a panel at the site. [Photo/Xinhua]


Other projects

While Wuhan is scrambling to build new hospitals, authorities in three other cities-in the provinces of Hubei and Henan, and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region-have also begun constructing similar facilities to relieve pressure on the overwhelmed healthcare system.

A makeshift hospital in Hubei's Huanggang, the city with the second-largest number of confirmed cases in the province, received its first patient on Tuesday night.

The medical center was originally planned as a new site for Huanggang Central Hospital, with the relocation process scheduled to be completed by May. Equipped with more than 1,000 beds, the center has been transformed into a temporary treatment facility for patients displaying symptoms of fever, according to Hubei Daily.

On Monday, construction of a quarantine facility began in Zhengzhou in Henan, a province that neighbors Hubei, and 28 prefabricated wards were in place by the next day.

Men pour cement at Huoshenshan. [Photo/Xinhua]


Echoes

The "makeshift hospital" strategy echoes the construction of Xiaotangshan Hospital in Beijing, which was built to accommodate patients displaying symptoms of SARS. On Thursday, Lei Haichao, director of the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, told Beijing News that renovation work had started at the hospital.

"If necessary, we will use some of the beds to provide treatment for patients with the novel coronavirus,"Lei said.

Of all the new and upgraded facilities, though, Wuhan's Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals are attracting the most attention, with tens of millions of people nationwide watching the construction process via livestreams from the site.

At 2:30 pm on Thursday, about 50 million people were watching the work, with the livestream providing a bird's-eye view of the site as workers, trucks and excavators raced to meet the deadline.

Many people who have stayed home to avoid possible infection have been following news of the virus via the internet. That has resulted in millions of "volunteer supervisors", as these netizens call themselves-they exchange their stories and feelings during this difficult time, in addition to discussing the construction project.


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