Christian relief group opens new emergency field hospital in Lancaster

LANCASTER, Calif. (CNS) -- An emergency field hospital has opened in Lancaster to help relieve the burden at Antelope Valley Hospital, which has been overrun with the surge in countywide coronavirus patients.

The 54-bed specialized respiratory care unit is operated by Samaritan's Purse, an international, Christian-based relief organization that opened a similar respiratory care unit in North Carolina last week.

It includes a team of more than 60 people from across the country, including 40 medical professionals.

"I am in awe at how quickly this field hospital became a reality,'' Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris said. "Once the call for help was made, city staff and local community members -- in partnership with Samaritan's Purse -- came together to raise the field hospital in record time. We still have a way to go through this pandemic and the support of Samaritan's Purse could not have come at a better time. This hospital will be crucial in reducing the burden on our local health care system.''

Ed Mirzabegian, CEO of Antelope Valley Hospital, said the medical center experienced a surge of patients after each previous holiday, "so we're preparing and bracing ourselves for the surge resulting from the New Year's Eve celebrations. With the added 50-bed capacity, the extra medical resources, and their talented medical staff, the help comes at a good time and will ease the weight from the main hospital. There's help needed across the country, and we feel blessed Samaritan's Purse chose our hospital and our city.''

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Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham said he was in the Antelope Valley last week.

"I was so impressed with the way the city and hospital, along with our disaster response team, have worked together to be prepared to meet the needs during this recent spike,'' Graham said. "Please join me in praying for the leaders of this community, the patients in need, and for all frontline workers battling the virus.''

The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals stood at 7,597 on Saturday, with 22% in the ICU. After peaking at just over 8,000, hospitalizations have been inching downward in recent days.

The county has a total of about 2,500 licensed ICU beds.

But health officials have warned that hospital numbers could significantly rise again due to people who were infected over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The county has continued to see elevated daily new case numbers, which always translate to more people being hospitalized.
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