Clinic in a Can opens up possibility of medical help in conflict zones

A company that converts shipping containers into clinics says they can be used to provide medical assistance in war-torn areas in the Middle East as well as help Haj pilgrims.

The US-based non-profit company Clinic in a Can converts new 20-feet containers into wat­erproof, sandproof and bulletproof clinics, fitting them with a single patient bed, scanning machines and other medical equipment.

Prices range from US$70,000 to $80,000, and the self-contained clinic can be used to provide treatment from primary care to trauma management, and delivering babies by C-section.

Clinic in a Can is an affiliate of Hospitals of Hope, which aims to provide health care in areas around the world that lack basic facilities. It partners with manufacturers of medical equipment and furniture such as GE Healthcare, Midmark, Hill-Rom and Welch Allyn.

Kansas-based Clinic in a Can signed a distribution deal with Riyadh’s Samama Holding on the sidelines of the four-day Arab Health exhibition in Dubai on Monday.

Samama expects to sell 100 units this year across the Arabian Gulf region, according to Nasser Almutawah Alotaibi, the chairman of Samama.

“In Saudi Arabia, it can be used for the Haj areas where we have millions of pilgrims and it is not feasible to build fully-fledged hospitals,” he said. “It can also be used in the border areas where there are clashes, such as at Saudi Arabia’s southern border with Yemen.”

His company expects to sell about 30 units ahead of this year’s Haj.

Clinic in a Can started in 2002 but last March GE shipped four containers to provide pri­mary care in areas of Sierra Leone devastated by the Ebola virus. Funded by GE, these containers remain deployed in the country. Designed to have a lifespan of up to 30 years, the containers can generate their own power through solar panels, purify ­water and control their own temperatures. They can also run on their own for a week.

“These do not need hugely skilled professionals to run,” said Paul Morton, the general manager for hospital and health care solutions for Russia, Turkey, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa at GE. “We expect a strong demand in conflict zones, after natural disasters and remote areas, with NGOs and governments as clients.”

GE is in talks with agencies such as the United Nations about orders of the containers, he said.

Following the cessation of fighting, demand could also come from Syria, as well as Iraq and Yemen, according to Mr Morton. The containers need to be transported on the back of lorries or airlifted to the site of operation.

Some of the converted containers have been deployed in Haiti, the Philippines and Bolivia.

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