Samaritan's Purse opens field hospital in northern Italy to help coronavirus patients

Workers set up the Samaritan's Purse emergency field hospital outside the Cremona Hospital in Cremona, Italy in March 2020.
Workers set up the Samaritan's Purse emergency field hospital outside the Cremona Hospital in Cremona, Italy in March 2020. | Samaritan's Purse

The evangelical humanitarian charity run by Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse, opened a 68-bed emergency field hospital in northern Italy to help the medical system as it struggles to deal with the coronavirus. 

On Friday, the field hospital opened just outside the city of Milan. According to Samaritan’s Purse, the coronavirus outbreak has overwhelmed the medical infrastructure in the area where there are over 40,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the European country. 

“The situation in Italy is desperate,” Samaritan’s Purse CEO Franklin Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, said in a statement. 

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“The hospitals are overrun and people are dying. We are called to respond in hard places. That’s why our team of disaster response specialists are on the front lines — providing life-saving medical care and sharing God’s love to people who are hurting.”

Over 3,400 people have died in Italy as a result of the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. 

As families have been left without access to necessary care, Samaritan’s Purse airlifted its emergency field hospital, medical team and critical aid to northern Italy on Monday by way of the charity’s DC-8 cargo plane. 

In total, 20 tons of medical equipment was shipped along with respiratory therapists, doctors, and nurses. According to Samaritan’s Purse, the hospital began receiving patients as soon as it opened. 

The field hospital features a respiratory care unit and is located adjacent to Cremona Hospital, which suspended all medical care except for maternity and pediatrics because of the influx of people who have coronavirus.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, none of the patients at Cremona Hospital’s intensive care unit have survived the virus. Additionally, the hospital has run out of beds. 

“Every time Samaritan’s Purse responds to a disaster, we respond in Jesus’ name,” Graham, who also heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said. “So we’re going to the people in Italy who are suffering and dying to care for them, to love them and to tell them about God’s Son Jesus Christ.”

Kelly Suter, the medical director for the  Samaritan’s Purse Respiratory Care Unit in Italy, said that medical professionals in the community are “grateful that we’ve been willing to come and fight beside them.”

“Almost every person that I talk to almost breaks into tears,” Suter said. “They’ve felt abandoned. They’ve felt helpless. They’ve been looking for a miracle and they are absolutely grateful that we’re here and ready to fight alongside them.”

Samaritan’s Purse plans to airlift the second round of medical supplies and responders on Saturday.

The North Carolina-based charity’s disease experts have worked in coordination with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure all necessary precautions are being taken. 

Samaritan’s Purse’s field hospital exits to “provide emergency medical relief in disaster-stricken areas where medical infrastructure is damaged, overwhelmed or nonexistent.” The field hospital has been used to treat thousands of patients over the years. 

The hospital was deployed in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and Mozambique after Cyclone Idai in April 2019. It was also deployed in Ecuador in April 2016 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and in Iraq in December 2016 during the battle against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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