Haiti: Inflatable Hospital photo gallery

Photo: Julie Remy

An aid worker unloads boxes as a Médecins Sans Frontières inflatable hospital takes shape on a football field in Port-au-Prince. Related Boing Boing interview here, more photos after the jump.

MSF is currently installing an inflatable hospital of 100 beds in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. More than 700 MSF staff are working to provide emergency medical assistance to survivors of the earthquake in and outside of the city. Photo: Benoit Finck

Setting the MSF France inflatable hospital on site in a football field of Port-au-Prince. Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Photo: Benoit Finck

Doctors Without Borders USA: web / Twitter


  1. They are the same. The ones shown are made by Base-X (they call them “AirBeam” and “AirBase-X”). In the US Army we generally use the rigid member versions. I’m sure there are good reasons for using the inflatable (probably lighter) though it seems to me the rigid frame would be better (stays erect despite leaks and power outages). All that said, their requirements differ a bit from ours.

    -Interested Soldier

  2. These pictures make for a bit of balance to all the terrible images they keep looping on the news. Sometimes I think that coverage of disasters like this tends to focus a bit too much on the powerlessness and shortcomings of human beings in crisis situations, rather than seeking out the inspirational and resolute way that people try to achieve whatever needs to be done in the circumstances. Thanks Xeni.

    MSF have been using these kinds of inflatable field hospital for some years now. They’ve been deployed recently in Sri Lanka and Gaza City, and in the DRC too. I think they might first have used them after the Kashmiri earthquake in Winter 2005. So this is not the first time they’ve been deployed to tackle earthquake situations, or large-scale humanitarian crisis either.

  3. I am a former MSF logistician. These photos are really fascinating, and I’m so happy to see them. One thing that is hard about working behind the scenes for a medical charity is that sometimes you only see patients in the photos, not the logistical work it took to be ready to treat them.

    I’d like to take this chance to point out some things that people might not know about MSF’s work, but that are illustrated nicely in these photos.

    MSF employs thousands of local people all around the world, including in Haiti. MSF brings expats to a country to bring medical or technical skills that are hard to come by in the context. The ratio is usually at least 20 to 1. MSF hires local people because not only is it cheaper and more efficient, it’s the right thing to do: if builds the economy and the skills of the local workforce.

    In these photos, you can see the MSF expats (white vests) supervising the construction of the tent. There’s probably a mix of local salaried workers (probably the older Haitian managers you can see leading the teams — they are likely drivers who have been working for MSF for years) and day workers (the kids with red and white tape tied on their sleeve). The tape is to keep track of who is a paid day worker, and who is a “volunteer”. When it is time to be paid in cash at the end of the day, some “volunteers” will try to get paid. The tape sorts out the day workers from those who try to hire themselves. :)

    Look at the labels on the cartons in the first picture. These cartons came from MSF Logistique in Bordeaux, France, http://www.msflogistique.org/index.php?lang=en
    The cartons which medical supplies are normally shipped in cannot stand up to the kind of treatment they get on the way from Bordeaux out to the field, so MSF orders special cartons and repacks the supplies. MSF logisiticians have discovered 100s of lessons like this over the years, which makes them effective long from the clean, mechanized world of Walmart. MSF Logistique sells supplies to many NGOs other than MSF, allowing everyone to get the benefits of their hard-won discoveries. It goes both ways — MSF logs use water purification and distribution equipment originally designed by Oxfam.

    Those cartons were probably packed months ago, and were maintained in an emergency stock, ready to be sent out. That means MSF used donations last year to prepare for this year’s needs. If you give money to MSF right now that is targeted to Haiti, MSF will be obliged to respect your wishes, and will spend the money the best way they can in Haiti this year and for years to come. But who will pay to rebuild the emergency stock? Please read and think about the message on the donations page at Doctors Without Borders’ website: unrestricted donations let MSF maintain the operational flexability to meet the needs of the next patients, where ever they may be.


    Disclaimer: http://blog.nella.org/?page_id=2

  4. For almost two weeks I have been amazed that no mention has been made of inflatable hospitals in Haiti. I have only recently found information on the Internet about the MSF inflatable hospitals used in Pakistan and finally being deployed to Haiti.

    In 1965 I was in the United States Army Medical Service Corps and stationed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

    During the summer of 1965, I was in charge of demonstrating a completely self-contained inflatable hospital to, as I remember, members of the American Society of Applied Physics, highly ranked United States military officers, and highly positioned federal government officials.

    As I remember, and that was 45 years ago, those inflatable “Quonset hut” units were 20 feet wide and 60 feet long. The units were designed so that they could be attached directly to adjacent in-line units or at 90 degrees by using an optional fabric connecting chamber, which also could be used as an entrance air lock or decontamination chamber.

    The units or “huts” were made up of contiguous 14” or 16” diameter tubes. Each “tube” was independently attached to manifolds on both sides of the unit, which insured the unit would remain erect in the event one or more “tubes” were punctured. There was no interior or exterior supporting structure or loose fabric. Heated or cooled air was delivered to each unit by flexible hoses attached to a fabric semi-circular zippered-opening manifold, which ran lengthwise inside the top of the unit.

    Each 20’ x 60’ inflatable unit was packed in a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ reusable shipping container.

    The gasoline powered inflation pump and electrical generator module was also packed in a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ reusable shipping container. The third shipping container contained the heating and air conditioning unit. And finally, the fourth shipping container held all the supplies and equipment necessary to do in-the-field emergency surgical procedures.

    Although I did not see the fifth module, I was told it contained the portable x-ray unit and film developing equipment. All modules (filled shipping containers) weighed less that 400 pounds and were designed to be lifted and moved by four men.

    These modules were designed to be delivered by pickup-size trucks and helicopters and, as I remember, could also be parachute dropped from transport aircraft.

    Essentially all you had to add was gasoline and doctors. Beds were optional and the packing containers could be used as operating tables under extreme conditions.

    I personally helped set up this demonstration hospital in the gymnasium of the Walter Reed Army Hospital. Since we could not run a gasoline engine inside the building we used a small, very old household vacuum cleaner to inflate the unit. The whole set-up took four people less than two hours, not the 48 hours that MSF inflatable hospital requires.

    It is shocking to me that this technology, which is more than 45 years old, is only now being “rediscovered”. I suspect that the United States military has these Inflatable Hospitals packed away and forgotten in a warehouse somewhere.

    It could be, however, since military evacuation of the wounded has improved so much in 45 years that patient stabilization and transportation to permanent medical facilities has made these Inflatable Hospitals obsolete for our military.

    Thanks to MSF for all the good work you are doing everywhere.

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