ATLANTA, Ga. -- Some assembly required. It's a phrase we associate with bicycles, toys and furniture, but a hospital? It's not that far-fetched. In Americus, Ga., it's just what the doctor ordered.
When Sumter Regional Hospital was seriously damaged by a tornado last March, the fastest and most innovative way to build an interim facility was to use high-tech modular units supplied by FEMA. Today, officials of the hospital, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) introduced the unique application.
The units can be combined in various configurations and expanded to provide usable floor space to meet nearly any requirement. According to FEMA, which stocks the system for use in disasters, this is the first time the components have been configured as a medical facility in the United States.
Through its Public Assistance program, FEMA is providing financial support to pay for 75 percent of eligible costs to prepare the site, set up and outfit the modular units. By early fall, the 70,000 square foot, 70-bed interim hospital will be fully assembled and feature an emergency room, operating rooms, labor and delivery rooms, a nursery and patient bed units.
"We are pleased that the interim hospital will soon provide a full range of medical services to the community and region," said Charley English, director of the GEMA. English said it not only will help the well-being of the citizens, but also provide an important boost to the area's economy.
When a record 21 tornadoes struck Georgia in March 2007, Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus was extensively damaged. The complex is the area's major regional healthcare provider and employer.
"Our mission is to help individuals and communities get back on their feet," said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Mike Bolch, head of the federal disaster recovery effort in Georgia following the severe storms and tornadoes."In Americus, we worked in close partnership with state and hospital planners to come up with a solution that was innovative, flexible and timely. The Cogim modular system meets the criteria."
FEMA delivered the first modular components 30 days into the disaster recovery. The hospital subsequently needed additional elements designed to accommodate operating rooms and other areas that required higher ceilings. The project will take several months to complete.
Once assembled, the rigid interlocking Cogim structures will be sturdy, weatherproof, insulated, and capable of withstanding winds up to 140 mph. FEMA will outfit the facility with electricity, plumbing, air-conditioning and some medical equipment.
The plan is to have the interim hospital provide medical care to the region for approximately three years. When the hospital authority restores the permanent hospital, the modules will be disassembled by FEMA for re-use in future disasters.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.