China Pledged to Build a New Hospital in 10 Days. It’s Close.


WUHAN, China — People desperate for treatment started descending on a new hospital that was mostly built in just 10 days to help cope with the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the central city of Wuhan on Monday.

Construction workers in hard hats, medical staff in hazmat suits, and men and women in army fatigues scrambled around the dusty site on Monday afternoon, dodging moving trucks, excavators and cranes. Workers were still trying to finish construction on the Huoshenshan Hospital — a name that means “Fire God Mountain” — even as the facility prepared to accept its first batch of patients, the official state broadcaster, China Central Television, reported.

Xue Ying, a resident of Wuhan, had driven to the new hospital hoping to find help for his increasingly unwell cousin. But city officials and signs on checkpoints have said the hospital would not accept walk-ins. Admission was only for patients with officially confirmed coronavirus infections who were transferred from other facilities.

Here’s how the hospital, built along the Zhiyin Lake, came together.

Construction teams of 7,000 workers with armies of trucks and excavators dug and scraped around the clock to complete the project. The city government is attempting a feat recalling the SARS epidemic of 2003, when Beijing built a hospital in a week.

For Beijing, the facility would also serve as a potent symbol of the government’s drive to do what needs to be done.

The city government needed to build the makeshift hospital quickly using prefabricated units to ease a persistent shortage of hospital beds and medical supplies. Leaders pledged to build the 1,000-bed complex in 10 days and vowed that another new 1,600-bed hospital would be ready by Feb. 5.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million, has been eerily quiet since the authorities locked it down, preventing residents from leaving and severely limiting public transportation and private cars. But the roads around the hospital building site were packed with cement mixers, trucks and other construction vehicles.

Many migrant workers and suppliers of materials were roped in to build the complex. Workplace safety precautions included temperature checks to try to detect signs of coronavirus infections.

In a ceremony on Sunday, Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, officially handed the new hospital over to the military, which will be in charge of operations. Boxes containing ventilators and medical equipment lay piled on a sidewalk on Monday. Trees sat in large trucks, ready to be unloaded. One volunteer offered free rides around the vast construction site on his flatbed tricycle. On a sign, he had scrawled: “Go, Wuhan! Go, Fire God Mountain!”

Many patients and their relatives have been eagerly looking forward to the opening of the new coronavirus hospitals, but on Monday, some were disappointed.

Mr. Xue, the resident who had driven to the hospital, said his mother had recently died of what the hospital called “viral pneumonia,” and though she was never tested, he believed that she had the coronavirus. He said his aunt and uncle were also in a hospital.

“I can’t afford to lose anyone else,” he said, sitting dejectedly in the car with his cousin, who was unwell.

By Monday evening, Chinese state media were reporting that ambulances had begun transporting patients to the new hospital.

Elsie Chen contributed reporting.


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