Samaritan’s pockets marking the opening of a North Carolina area hospital for COVID-19 sufferers

(RNS) – Seven months after the closure of the COVID-19 Field Hospital in New York’s Central Park, Samaritan’s Purse is opening another to treat overflow patients with coronavirus in western North Carolina.

The evangelical humanitarian organization, led by Franklin Graham, will open a downsized 30-bed field hospital to help five small hospitals in the area treat COVID-19 patients.

It will be located in Lenoir at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the grounds of Caldwell UNC Health Care.

Graham, son of the late preacher Rev. Billy Graham and a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, was not immediately available for comment.

READ: Under fire from many, Samaritan’s wallet finds an unlikely champion

North Carolina saw a surge in coronavirus cases this month. As of Thursday (December 31), 3,472 people with COVID-19 had been hospitalized, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services, putting some hospitals overworked. 539,545 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state and 6,748 have died.

In April, as New York became the epicenter of the pandemic, Samaritan’s Purse set up a 68-bed COVID-19 unit in a row of white tents near New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. The field hospital was equipped with a breathing station that included up to 10 intensive care beds with ventilators as well as a pharmacy and a laboratory. Samaritan’s wallet doctors treated more than 300 people before the field hospital closed on May 5.

Samaritan’s purse later flew a 30-bed field hospital to King Salmon, Alaska, but that hospital was never assembled because the demand wasn’t great enough.

Samaritan’s wallet came under fire by some in New York City after reports were made that hospital contractors – doctors, nurses and other health care workers – were required to sign a declaration of belief against same-sex marriage. The city’s Human Rights Commission asked Samaritan’s wallet to provide a written explanation of how it is offering help to ensure it does not violate the city’s non-discrimination laws.

Graham assured New Yorkers that the Field Hospital would not discriminate against LGBTQ people in the provision of care.

Samaritan’s wallet will almost certainly find a more receptive answer in western North Carolina, where the organization, whose headquarters are only 30 miles north, is known and valued. Many churches in the region are contributing to Samaritan’s Purse’s Shoebox Service, which sends out Christmas packages of personal care products and small toys to children in need around the world.

“On behalf of all health systems involved in this effort, I would like to thank Samaritan’s Purse for making this investment in the well-being of our communities. Planning this additional capacity will now help us provide the level of care our communities need as volume continues to grow in our region, ”said Laura Easton, President and CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care.

It will take 48 hours to build the tent complex and begin treating patients next week. It’s limited to those who are COVID-19 positive but don’t need the assistance of a ventilator.

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