4 Comments

  1. Please tell me the doctors, nurses all the patients get to bounce around inside !
    (America could do with some of these for their poor / uninsured)

  2. I can think of one major improvement: Fill the tents with gas cylinders (i.e. nitrogen) instead of those air pumps. First of all, it would probably be much faster to inflate the tents (Ever opened the valve on a gas cylinder? 2000psi shoots out PDQ) Second, it’s not dependent on electricity (looks like they must have a generator running for a couple days just to inflate the tents. I’d rather save that fuel to power the hospital instead) Third, a gas like nitrogen is less likely to contract when it’s cold, therefore the tent would be less likely to sag on a chilly night.

    A standard “A size” cylinder (9″ x 56″; 43.8L) filled with nitrogen at 2000PSI would yield 5959L of nitrogen at atmosphere (14.7PSI) or roughly 210 cu-ft.

    Assuming 200 linear feet of 24″ diameter “tubing” for a structure, the total volume of said tubing would be 17799L, or slightly less than 3 cylinders of nitrogen.

  3. That’s really awesome that modern technology allows this type of thing to be available. More awesome is that there are people willing to fly in from around the world and put it to use.

  4. For almost two weeks I was amazed that no mention had been made of inflatable hospitals in Haiti. I only recently found information on the Internet about the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) inflatable hospitals used in Pakistan and finally being deployed to Haiti.

    In 1965 I was in the United States Army Medical Service Corps and stationed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

    During the summer of 1965, I was in charge of demonstrating a completely self-contained inflatable hospital to, as I remember, members of the American Society of Applied Physics, highly ranked United States military officers, and highly positioned federal government officials.

    As I remember, and that was 45 years ago, those inflatable “Quonset hut” units were 20 feet wide and 60 feet long. The units were designed so that they could be attached directly to adjacent in-line units or at 90 degrees by using an optional connecting chamber, which also could be used as an entrance air lock or decontamination chamber.

    The “corrugated” units or “inflatable Quonset huts” were made up of contiguous 14” or 16” diameter tubes. Each “tube” was independently attached through valves to manifolds on both sides of the unit, which insured the unit would remain erect in the event one or more “tubes” were punctured. An olive-green “duct” tape was used to quickly patch punctures.

    There was no interior or exterior supporting structure or loose fabric. The waterproof floor was an integral part of the unit and helped form the inflated “tubes” into the “Quonset Hut” configuration. The entire “hut” was self-supporting and very rigid even when inflated with very low-pressure air.

    Heated or cooled air was delivered to the interior of each unit by flexible hoses attached to a fabric semi-circular zippered-opening HVAC manifold, which ran lengthwise inside along the top of the unit.

    Each 20’ x 60’ inflatable unit was packed in a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ reusable shipping container.

    The gasoline powered inflation pump and electrical generator module was also packed in a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ reusable shipping container. The third shipping container contained the heating and air conditioning unit. And finally, the fourth shipping container held all the supplies and equipment necessary to do in-the-field emergency surgical procedures.

    Although I did not see the fifth module, I was told it contained the portable x-ray unit and film developing equipment. All modules (filled shipping containers) weighed less that 400 pounds and were designed to be lifted and moved by four to six men.

    These modules were designed to be delivered by pickup-size trucks and helicopters and, as I remember, could also be parachute dropped from transport aircraft.

    Essentially all you had to add was gasoline and doctors. Beds were optional (field stretchers were expected to serve as temporary beds) and the packing containers could be used as operating tables under extreme conditions.

    I personally helped set up this demonstration hospital in the gymnasium of the Walter Reed Army Hospital. Since we could not run a gasoline engine inside the building we used the exhaust from a very small, old household “pig-type” vacuum cleaner to inflate the unit.

    The whole set-up took four people less than two hours, not the 48 hours that the MSF inflatable hospital requires.

    It appears that the U. S. Navy Hospital ship and the inflatable hospitals, although great ideas and I am sure eventually will be extremely helpful, are too big, too slow, and too late.

    How many lives and limbs could have been saved if just one or two inflatable units like the one I demonstrated 45 years ago could have been delivered by helicopter to the MSF doctors last week to be used as air-conditioned surgical operating rooms?

    It is shocking to me that this technology, which is more than 45 years old, is only now being “rediscovered”. I suspect that the United States military has these Inflatable Hospitals packed away and forgotten in a warehouse somewhere.

    It could be, however, since military evacuation of the wounded has improved so much in 45 years that patient stabilization and transportation to permanent medical facilities has made these Inflatable Hospitals obsolete for our military.

    This is another painful learning experience for FEMA.

    Thanks to MSF for all the good work you are doing everywhere.

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