A new medical facility in the city of Wuhan opened its doors to patients Monday after just 10 days of construction, marking the latest effort by Chinese officials to stymie the rapidly spreading coronavirus that has sickened more than 17,000 people in the country.
Dubbed the "super-fast hospital" by the state-owned China Daily newspaper, construction of the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan hospital began formally on Jan. 25. Officials hope the facility will relieve pressure on Wuhan's already overcrowded medical institutions, where some seeking care have been turned away because of a shortage of beds and basic supplies. It comes as the World Health Organization has cautioned against panic about the outbreak and praised China's efforts to contain it, even as fears of transmission have continued to grow.
WHO has reported 146 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 23 countries outside China.
The facility's first patients arrived Monday, according to Chinese state media.
Huoshenshan's swift construction was the product of a round-the-clock effort fueled by 4,000 workers and 1,000 construction machines, according to China Daily. Live-streamed video over the course of construction allowed people to follow its progress online.
Xinhuanet, another state-run news agency, reported that the hospital is staffed by 1,400 medical personnel from the People's Liberation Army. The publication noted its rapid construction was modelled after a similar hospital built in Beijing during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which involved 7,500 construction workers. That facility, Xiaotangshan, was built in seven days.
Details about the patients who arrived at Huoshenshan on Monday were not immediately available.
According to the Associated Press, the two-story, 600,000-square-foot Huoshenshan building features doubled-sided cabinets and ventilation systems that essentially quarantine patients, allowing hospital staff to deliver supplies without entering their rooms. The building also contains infrared scanners that can detect if any employees have a fever - one of the coronavirus's telltale symptoms.
The new facility is opening as many residents of Wuhan have opted to stay home even if they are sick, citing limited beds and fears they may fall sick at hospitals. But even in the early days of Huoshenshan's construction, it quickly became apparent that the facility would not be large enough to mitigate bed shortages as the virus continues to spread.
Another hospital under construction in Hubei province, called Leishenshan ("thunder-god mountain"), is scheduled to be completed Feb. 5 and will contain an additional 1,600 beds. Similar facilities are also being built in Beijing and other Chinese cities.