By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2010 – U.S. and international relief workers in Haiti are developing a 5,000-bed hospital in the capital of Port-au-Prince to increase medical capacity as the country struggles to recover two weeks after a devastating earthquake struck.
Among other facilities, the hospital will accept patients from the floating hospital ship USNS Comfort, where more than 100 surgeries have been performed since arriving at the Haitian coast last week.
Though still some weeks away from becoming fully operational, U.S. medical equipment that will outfit the additional hospital in northern Port-au-Prince has begun to arrive, Army Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, the top U.S. commander in Haiti, told Pentagon reporters today.
“We are anticipating to at least get the seeds of that hospital up within the next week or so, but that we’ll begin small and then grow from there,” Keen said via teleconference from Haiti. “We are hoping to be able to at least start with a 250-man centerpiece.”
Haitian authorities have said more than 150,000 bodies have been buried in Haiti since a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the country Jan. 12. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 3 million Haitians were affected.
International aid continues pouring into Haiti in the midst of what an official called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Among those assets is the USNS Comfort, on which U.S. medical personnel has taken aboard nearly 400 patients, performed more than 100 surgeries and filled more than 11,800 prescriptions since its Jan. 20 arrival.
Keen said the Haitian government quickly granted a request for a large piece of land — situated near the hospital ship and also accessible by road — that could host the 5,000-bed hospital. A principal source of the incoming patients will come from the Comfort, he added.
“We want to continue to see a flow of patients that need that critical care that the Comfort offers, and then take patients off of her that do not need that any longer, in order to maximize the utility of the Comfort,” Keen said.
The general said nongovernment organizations are determining who will man the hospital once it opens its doors to patients, with the United States playing the role of advisors and assistants in what Keen characterized as a “joint venture.”
“[The organizations] are responding, in terms of being able to manage the hospital and in being able to staff the hospital,” he said. “We are enabling that by working with the international community to procure tinnage and all the things that you can imagine you need in order to build a hospital of that magnitude.”