BANGKOK — Health officials in Samut Sakhon province, where reported coronavirus infections continue to rise sharply, said Thursday that they need field hospitals with at least 3,000 beds in order to grapple with the outbreak.
Samut Sakhon has recorded as many as 3,100 cases as of Thursday – nearly a third of nationwide case numbers. Boonluck Puengjaetsada, a doctor in charge of organizing response to the outbreak in the province, said that field hospitals are being erected in Samut Sakhon, but they have only 800 beds so far.
“What’s challenging is setting up the system,” Boonluck said. “We are setting it up and it’s going ahead with assistance from private hospitals in the province as well.”
Health ministry perm sec Kiattiphum Wongrajit estimated that 2,000–3,000 more beds are needed for the frontline workers to contain the growing case number.
Kiattiphum said the field hospitals will house coronavirus patients who display minor symptoms, as the government wants to separate them from the members of their households. They will be provided with some forms of “entertainment” to lessen their stress.
He added that private landowners are welcomed to offer their venues to erect field hospitals, as more spaces will likely be required in the days ahead.
At least one business already stepped forward. Wattana Farm in Samut Sakhon was praised by government coronavirus center Taweesin Visanuyothin on Thursday for lending its land for field hospitals, which would accommodate as many as 1,000 beds.
Taweesin said there’s also a need to prepare for the “worst case scenario,” which could see field hospitals set up in other provinces as well to house those with minor conditions. Patients who have serious symptoms will still be sent to permanent medical facilities, he added.
The officials will likely face an uphill battle with public opinions. A number of communities remain suspicious of and even resistant to any attempt by health authorities to set up facilities for coronavirus patients in their area.
Some 50 people in Ratchaburi province already staged a protest on Tuesday in the wake of news reports that a field hospital would be set up there for coronavirus patients from Samut Sakhon.
The protest prompted Ratchaburi Gov. Ronnapob Luangpairote to reassure the residents on Wednesday that Ratchaburi will not set up any field hospitals or accept any transfer of coronavirus into the province for now.