What is the role of shelter hospitals in the current COVID-19 Pandemic?

Bottom Line:

Fangcang shelter hospitals can be a strong component of the national response for handling the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as for any future epidemics and public health emergencies.


Chen, S. et al. Fangcang shelter hospitals: a novel concept for responding to public health emergencies. The Lancet (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30744-3

Date Published:

2 April 2020


Fangcang shelter hospitals are a novel public health concept that was introduced for the first time in China in February 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Fangcang hospitals are large-scale, temporary hospitals. They are made by converting existing infrastructure, such as stadiums and exhibition centers, into healthcare facilities in order to isolate patients with mild to moderate symptoms of the disease. These hospitals also provide medical care, disease monitoring, food, shelter, and social activities. These hospitals have three key characteristics. The first is rapid construction: they can be built quickly because they are based inside an existing physical infrastructure. Secondly, they provide a massive scale – the ability to convert existing large-scale public venues to serve hospital functions provides a huge leverage to increase healthcare capacity. The third characteristic is the low cost of building and running these hospitals, as converting existing venues prevents costly construction of new physical infrastructure. Furthermore, the Fangcang hospitals serve five essential functions: isolation of patients with mild to moderate symptoms, triage, providing basic medical care, frequent monitoring and rapid referral to traditional hospital in case of severe or critical disease, and essential living and social engagement to promote patient recovery and alleviate anxiety that the pandemic and isolation could cause. Fangcang hospitals can be a national standard of care during public health emergencies to bridge a gap until the capacity for mass treatment can be established. These Fangcang shelter hospitals can be rapidly established and can provide space for a large number of hospital beds and appropriate care for patients who do not have severe or critical disease.

Summary by: Parth Patel