IRVINE, Calif. — As hospitals deal with shrinking ICU capacity, COVID-19 cases continue to grow, and some medical facilities are preparing by adding extra beds to help treat patients.

At UCI Health in Orange the extra beds are inside what’s called a mobile field hospital (MFH), which is a vinyl-like tent designed by the military. A team had been working on constructing the MPH since Sunday.

The facility is set up just outside the brick and mortar hospital in what is normally a parking lot.

What You Need To Know

  • UCI Health in Orange has set up a mobile field hospital which can house up to 50 beds

  • According to Dr. Sebastian Schubl, the medical director of the mobile field hospital, no ICU patients are expected to be treated in the mobile facility

  • Instead, patients who are expected to only be in the hospital for one to two days will be treated 

  • More information about the MPH from the county can be found here

Paul Bhatia is one of dozens of people who helped figure out what goes where, and how to put it together. Bhatia said it was, “Just like puzzles and Legos.”

Bhatia was one of the handful of students at UC Irvine who are also members of the Anteater Emergency Medical Services student organization who have volunteered to help build the MPH. On Tuesday, the team was busy working on the floor of one of two lavatories.

The team of students wanted to step up because Bhatia said for them, “It’s really that call to action, you know.”

You could say helping is in Bhatia’s blood. He’s an EMT and said he wants to become a doctor. The fourth-year student just wrapped up his finals and could be resting at home, but said,  “I would rather be here to finish all of this stuff.”

The tent-like mobile field hospital will eventually have 50 beds.

“It’s going to be a full fledge inpatient hospital. It’s going to have all the supplies, the equipment that we need to treat patients as if they were in a true brick and mortar hospital,” said Medical Director Dr. Sebastian Schubl.

The trauma and critical care surgeon said there will be no ICU patients in the mobile facility.

“What we’re really positioning this facility for is to take care of the lowest acuity patients that really only need one or at most two nights in the facility. So that they can have their treatment done out here and go back home," said Dr. Schubl. 

The list of patients to be treated in the mobile facility could include patients who have COVID-19.

“We don’t see that being something that we do at first. And we don’t see that being something that we do for their entire length of stay," said Schubl.

He added that COVID patients would be segregated into a designated COVID zone that other patients will not be allowed in.

And according to Dr. Schubl, having the mobile facility at UCI is a game changer that’s needed right now. “We have a 421 bed hospital. Right now we have over 130 COVID patients that are admitted to the facility. That number keeps growing every single day. So, we need 50 more beds to be able to serve our community.”

Serving the community is the reason Bhatia, all the students, and the rest of the team have been at the hospital helping to construct the mobile field hospital. “It’s been extremely fulfilling for me personally. It helps me sleep at the end of the day," Bhatia said.

Dr. Schubl does expect to have the extra beds ready to care for patients by the end of the month.

The following additional hospitals in Orange county have requested this resource from the Orange County Health Care Agency:

  • Fountain Valley Regional Hospital — 50 beds
  • St. Jude Medical Center, Fullerton — 25 beds

More information about the MPH from the county can be found here.