Philippines: MSF Team Sets Up Inflatable Hospital

Setting up the inflatable hospital at Bethany Hospital.
Yann Libessart/MSF
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A team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has opened an inflatable hospital in Tacloban, in the central Philippines, one of the cities in the region hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

Developed specifically for natural disaster responses, the hospital consists of four inflatable 100-square-meter tents and a fifth tent that measures 45 square meters. It was set up on the grounds of the badly damaged Bethany hospital on the seafront in Tacloban.

It houses an emergency room, a wound care room, a pharmacy, and up to 45 hospital beds. Additional care will be provided within Bethany hospital once repairs have been completed to the damaged surgical and maternity wards, the neonatal unit, and the unit for sterilizing equipment.

“Alongside Filipino and international volunteers, we worked hard all night, in the pouring rain, so that the hospital would be in place this morning,” says Yann Libessart, a member of MSF’s emergency team in Tacloban. “Getting the site ready and installing the hospital was a major logistical challenge. First we had to clear the courtyard and outdoor areas of the hospital.”

MSF’s medical teams based in the inflatable hospital will also support the few hospitals in Tacloban that are still functioning and take over some of the work of the first rescue teams to arrive on the scene, including soldiers, who are now starting to leave the city.

“The first phase of the emergency is now over,” says Laurent Sury, MSF emergency coordinator, “and we expect mainly to be treating patients with common diseases or conditions related to poor access to health care, such as women with complicated deliveries and people with chronic illnesses. Our goal is to support the health system in the region for the time it takes to return to normality."

MSF’s standalone inflatable hospital was developed with the specific purpose of helping its emergency teams respond quickly to natural disasters, enabling them to provide people with quality health care while damaged health facilities are being reconstructed or repaired.

The inflatable hospital was used following the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

MSF currently has 192 international staff working in the Philippines to provide health care and humanitarian aid in a dozen towns and villages on the islands of Leyte, Samar, and Panay, all of which were very hard hit by the typhoon.