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China Daily Global / 2020-05 / 22 / Page005

Hospitals built in 10 days were tonic for morale

By Cui Jia | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-05-22 00:00

Editor's Note: This series tells the stories of delegates to the two sessions who are bravely fighting the virus outbreak with extraordinary dedication.

Building the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, in 10 days and fitting it with the utilities and medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients seemed like mission impossible at the time.

However, when the building materials flooded in, the workers arrived, and the project received the full backing of the Chinese people, Chen Huayuan, head of the construction team, knew the goal could be achieved.

"It was a project like no other," Chen, a National People's Congress deputy from Hubei, said Thursday.

"The difficulties in management and coordination were unprecedented. Also, the whole world was watching," said the former president of the China Construction Third Engineering Bureau.

After Jan 23, when China announced the decision to build the hospital in such a short period of time, the 58-year-old stayed at the construction site and averaged only three hours of sleep a night.

"There were endless things to coordinate at all times. Progress on the construction of the hospital was assessed on an hourly basis," he said.

The team made contingency plans to deal with extreme conditions, such as bad weather, to ensure the project was handled efficiently and completed on schedule, Chen said.

When construction work was at its peak, more than 40,000 workers from 100 different contractors were working in harmony at the site.

"We all knew the project was a lifesaving one that would bring Wuhan people hope at a time when medical resources were extremely overstretched," Chen said.

"To join the construction team, many workers dropped out of family gatherings in rural China before Spring Festival. For many of them, the gatherings are the most important event of the year," he said.

Although the workers were aware of the risks as the epidemic became a grave problem in Wuhan, they chose to come to the city to help. "The construction workers are the real heroes," Chen said.

In the beginning, Chen was worried the construction materials would not arrive in time as manufacturers were closed for the holiday. His concerns proved unfounded.

"The whole country was behind us. The construction material manufacturers reopened immediately and the workers returned to their posts voluntarily. We could get everything we needed almost at once. Cost was the least of everyone's concerns," he said.

On Jan 25, Chen was also appointed head of the construction team at Leishenshan Hospital. Construction of that hospital began on Jan 25 and was also completed in 10 days.

The two makeshift hospitals, with 2,600 beds covering an area of 105,000 square meters, about the size of 15 soccer fields, treated 5,070 COVID-19 patients and 4,861 of them fully recovered. Both hospitals were closed on April 15 after their missions were completed.

The construction of the two hospitals was livestreamed online 24 hours a day and became popular with Chinese social media users.

"At first, I thought the public would only point out the flaws during the construction process. Instead, all we received was their support, which meant a lot to us. We even adopted some of their suggestions into the construction process," he said.

He stepped down from the post soon after the completion of the two hospitals. "I will forward the management methods used in the hospital projects to the China Construction Third Engineering Bureau so they can be introduced around China and even the world," he said.


Chen Huayuan



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