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Disaster Response: Using Shipping Containers for Emergency Medical Clinics

Initially designed for transporting goods, shipping containers are being repurposed into fully functional mobile health clinics. These sturdy, versatile structures are ideal for natural disaster relief efforts, conflict zones and remote areas, as well as temporary usage for mining and construction sites or other locations. Healthcare providers can quickly establish on-site healthcare, providing affected communities access to essential medical services.

Benefits of Using Shipping Containers for Emergency Medical Clinics 

Shipping containers offer an adaptable and rapid solution for providing aid in emergencies. Their versatility makes them a practical choice for various medical uses, ensuring that hospitals and clinics can be swiftly deployed where needed.

The advantages of using a converted shipping container as a mobile medical facility to provide healthcare services include:

  • The use of shipping containers for medical purposes offers a low-cost alternative to constructing hospitals or clinics from scratch. 
  • The sturdy, weatherproof construction of modular clinics makes them resilient in challenging environments.
  • Portable clinics are easily transportable and operational within days of rapid deployment to disaster areas, rural areas, virus outbreaks and more. 
  • Stacked or connected units create larger medical spaces, which can hold multiple people and medical equipment.
  • Shipping container clinics can be customised and outfitted with medical equipment, emergency rooms, examination rooms, treatment areas, and other essential medical facilities. 

A real-life example of a shipping container medical clinic

During the Haiti 2010 earthquake, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) deployed Containerised Health Units. These units served as surgical theatres, outpatient clinics, and pharmacies, offering vital assistance to affected populations.

Designing a Shipping Container Medical Clinic

To ensure the well-being of patients and staff and a smooth operation, your shipping container clinic needs the following: 

Proper airflow to remove airborne contaminants, control humidity levels and prevent the buildup of odours.

Insulation for regulating temperature and creating a comfortable interior in extreme weather or harsh climates.

Exposure to natural light, which has been linked to improved mood and patient outcomes.

Accessibility for patients with mobility challenges, including wider doorways, ramps, and accessible washroom facilities.

Challenges and Limitations of Using Shipping Container Medical Clinics

While using shipping containers as mobile clinics offers numerous advantages, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges that may arise.

  1. Shipping containers come in 10, 20 or 40 feet in length. While their compact nature allows for easy transportation and mobility, it may also mean limited interior space. 
  2. Provisioning electricity, plumbing, air conditioning systems, and communication networks to meet healthcare requirements can be complex.
  3. Shipping container medical clinics must adhere to local building codes, health regulations and safety standards. Compliance with healthcare guidelines and infection control measures ensures the quality of medical care.
  4. While a container mobile hospital can be flexible and scalable to some extent, it may be limited in accommodating evolving healthcare needs during prolonged emergencies.
  5. Identifying a suitable site to deploy shipping container clinics is crucial. Factors such as accessibility, security, proximity to affected populations, and availability of basic infrastructure must be considered.

Interested in discussing creating a mobile clinic? Speak with the team at SEA Containers about how we can help you with the conversion process. Contact us for more information.