The hospital building boom has taken on a slightly different meaning for Harris Methodist Fort Worth (Texas) Hospital, which recently unveiled what officials describe as the first privately owned, inflatable surge hospital in the U.S.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, hospitals across the country have struggled to develop ways to quickly expand capacity to deal with large-scale disasters. That effort has been reinforced in the past two years or so by natural calamities such as Hurricane Katrina. While other hospital systems and some states have acquired portable hospitals, 558-bed Harris Methodistpart of 13-hospital Texas Health Resources in Arlingtonreportedly is the first to purchase an inflatable minihospital with room for more than 40 patients.
We wanted to have the opportunity to be flexible and respond effectively ... as a way to create and manage our resources during crises, said Barclay Berdan, president of Harris Methodist Fort Worth and executive vice president of the not-for-profit health system.
Harris Methodist Fort Worth, together with Harris Methodist Northwest Hospital, a 26-bed sister facility in suburban Azle, received a federal grant of about $442,000 to purchase the inflatable surge hospital, which opens up to 2,700 square feet and includes 26 medical/surgical beds, 10 triage beds and four intensive-care beds. Texas Health Resources gave about $236,000 for the hospital, which was purchased from Dynamic Air Shelters. The company has been developing smaller inflatable command posts and triage shelters for about a dozen years.
Berdan says the surge hospital, which is stored in a big trailer outside the Fort Worth hospital, can also create negative air-pressure flow, which is used to provide isolation areas for patients with infectious diseases.
Harold Warner, president of Dynamic Air Shelters, said the surge hospital is the first one he has sold to a U.S. hospital, but suggested that the healthcare industry could be a big market for his firm. While he said the vinyl structure can be fully deployed in about 90 minutes by a team of six to eight individuals, it took the folks at Harris Methodist about four hours or so the first time.
As you get more familiar with it, it takes less time, Berdan said. The last time, we were down to about two hours.