Watch an Inflatable Hospital Come to Life in Nepal
If you can’t build it, inflate it—at least that’s the thinking of Doctors Without Borders.
In the wake of a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that has claimed more than 7,000 lives in Nepal and destroyed crucial sites such as health clinics and medical facilities, the nonprofit medical organization has set up an inflatable hospital in the town of Arughat, approximately 80 miles northwest of Kathmandu. “Our priority is to reach people in places where no one else is going and who have not received assistance,” reads the nonprofit’s website.
The 20-bed hospital will include an operating room, an obstetrics unit, and a maternity ward.
“We’ll be treating all categories of patients: children, adults, men and women, obstetrics cases, to maternity care,” Doctors Without Borders nurse anesthetist Hyppolite Kalala Kalala explains in the video, released today. He adds that the focus will be on follow-up surgeries for those injured in the quake, as well as emergency C-sections for pregnant mothers.
The hospital’s design is made possible thanks to an inflatable frame and attached pumps. There’s also air conditioning and an oxygen concentrator that converts air into oxygen.
While the inflatable hospital was set up earlier this week, it will take a few more days before patients can be admitted. In the meantime, those in need of medical care are being directed to a makeshift open-air clinic nearby operated by the organization's physicians and volunteers. The tiny clinic—made from little more than bamboo and tarp—was built after the town’s health center was flattened by the quake. It’s the only functioning health care clinic in the area and is responsible for Arughat’s 10,000 residents as well as the 40,000 people in surrounding villages, according to volunteer doctor Jean-Paul Delain.
So far, people with a variety of conditions have come through, including a man who suffered from chronic heart disease whose medication had run out a few days prior.
“If we hadn’t intervened within the next half hour, this man would have undoubtedly died,” Delain says. “This confirms that there is unconditional need for a facility able to provide secondary-level health care.”
However, the open-air clinic offers little privacy, and one woman recently had to give birth “surrounded by loads of people,” Delain says. For these patients and many others, the inflatable hospital will be a welcome upgrade in space and privacy.