Further on the six-day hospital - January 26, 2020  7:00 CST

Wuhan residents are cheered a little by reports that military doctors and nurses are being dispatched to Wuhan and neighboring cities.  My report is that all cities in Wuhan are now quarantined. Every province in China has cases of the coronavirus except for Tibet.

The Hubei governor has said now he feels hen tongxin,  great heart-pain, for the slow response of his government.  Wechat users are asking why he is not resigning immediately.

South China Morning Post  reports that even the CCP controlled Hubei Daily published harsh words - for a few minutes, before deleting their own work -

Doctors in Wuhan have been among those calling for health officials to be held to account and, in an unusually blunt statement on social media platform Weibo, a senior reporter from the province’s official Communist Party newspaper, Hubei Daily, said the city’s leaders should be removed “immediately”.

“Like many people, I used to believe that a temporary decision to replace leaders with those less familiar with the situation would not be good for pushing through the [antivirus] work, but based on the worsening situation that is getting increasingly severe, those currently in the role have no capability of leadership,” reporter Zhang Ouya wrote on Friday.

“For Wuhan, please change the leadership immediately,” he said in the post, which was later removed.

A doctor from one of the major Wuhan hospitals wrote that the number of cases grew dramatically after January 12 but officials refused to publish the data -

“These patients were not given proper quarantine nor medical treatment and they could travel in every corner of the city...  Later, when we warned patients and the public to wear masks and avoid crowded areas, they didn’t take it seriously and thought we were exaggerating, and even some medical staff, including surgeons didn’t believe it and were not willing to take basic precautions.”

Hospitals have put out private appeals for masks, gowns, gloves, and other supplies.  Some member of the public have responded.  There are stories of individuals volunteering to drive doctors and nurses to their homes; otherwise, they would be unable to leave the hospitals at all, where they are on 24 hour standby status. 

But let's get some perspective on the six-day hospital story.  There are still too many Americans who will believe any story, however wild, coming out of China about size, speed, and spending.  A good example is from Next Draft, which reports that “On the outskirts of Wuhan, diggers and bulldozers have begun work to build a new 1,000-bed hospital, which is due to open within days.” No, that’s not a typo. Diggers to digs in days. (In America, it takes six weeks to get a permit to re-hang a shingle.)

Even the New York Times has repeated the story of the marvelous seven day wonder. 

A BBC News story reports -

"China has a record of getting things done fast even for monumental projects like this," says Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr Huang said that engineers would be brought in from across the country in order to complete construction in time.

"The engineering work is what China is good at. They have records of building skyscrapers at speed. This is very hard for westerners to imagine. It can be done," he added.


According to state media, the hospital will contain 1000 beds; and a second hospital is to be built, this one at the leisurely pace of two weeks.

You've seen the photo of the excavators urgently digging next to each other at the hospital site.  What did you not see in that photo?  Any dump trucks for the excavators to put soil in.  So what are they digging?  Moreover, in that disturbed soil, you cannot place foundations for any permanent structure in a few day period.  The settlement of foundations would be immediate, and destructive.  This is true even in China.  Remember Richard Feynman, talking about the Challenger disaster - nature cannot be fooled.  In this case, any structure would begin cracking right away, and be useless in short order. 

Let's get a grip on this story.  Anyone who thinks that what is being produced is our mental image of a hospital needs to sit down and take a break.  This is not a two or three story facility with intricate mechanical and plumbing systems.  Call it what you will, this is on the order of a field hospital, needed to be sure, and an excellent temporary piece of a solution to the crisis, but only a temporary facility.  The model for this Wuhan field hospital is one built in Beijing during the SARS epidemic in 2003.  
From BBC News -  "It's basically a quarantined hospital where they send people with infectious diseases so it has the safety and protective gear in place," said Joan Kaufman, lecturer in global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School.

China Global Television Network (CGTN) has more, referencing the Beijing field hospital built for the SARS epidemic -

Wuhan's Huoshenshan hospital is located at the Workers' Sanatorium away from populated areas and equipped with separated quarantine wards to minimize risks of cross-infection. Health officials overseeing the operation said the facilities can be assembled quickly using portable prefabricated components at low cost. The emphasis is on speed and functionality.

After SARS epidemic in Beijing, According to Mr Huang, the hospital was "quietly abandoned after the epidemic ended".  

Think MASH, not Northwestern Hospital or Cedars Sinai. And that is fine, and what is needed. 

Let's remember that in any case hospital rooms in China bear no resemblance to anything we might consider as functional in the US.  Hospital rooms in China are basically hotel rooms but with fewer accommodations. The much-needed facilities will be quarantine rooms, no doubt staffed by army doctors and nurses, and volunteers from across China.  Medicines and masks will still be in short supply, since the calls are currently for three times the normal daily production of these items in all of China, and this is Spring Festival week. 

Good on the government for responding, however late, and good on Chinese for stepping up to volunteer, as they did in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.  It is hard to get the people's attention when the government cannot be trusted -  in a meeting yesterday, the governor asked for more help from across China.  In the same meeting, a few minutes later, the Wuhan mayor said everything is fine, and under control. Some truth has worked its way through the censorship and the miscommunication and non-communication, but it is not easy. 

You know the expressways are blocked for people trying to leave Wuhan - and by now, probably the entire province.  People who want to get out can try driving on local farm and village roads.  On Wechat groups, there are reports of village people blocking country roads, fighting with Wuhan labeled cars trying to get out, forcing them to turn back or just go somewhere else.  The reports are that during the Spring Festival, five million people left Wuhan, to places all over China.  The incubation time for the coronavirus is said to be about two weeks.  Some of those people will be sick now, and transmitting the virus wherever they are. 

The government is responding in Wuhan, but the virus is by no means under control.  We may see more six-day hospitals in the next week or two.