Shipping Containers have been shaping industry for years. How can they now help save lives?

Across South Africa teams scramble to set up field hospitals at large convention and expo centres as we enter the peak period of the virus. Shipping containers are a solution to Africa’s COVID-19 challenges.

Emergency rooms and intensive care units are beginning to fill-up. Whilst the world converts hotels, conference rooms, and open spaces into additional hospital spaces.

The global lesson that has exposed itself is that modern hospitals often lack the flexibility to accommodate a sudden surge of patients. Shipping containers could be a solution here.

Hospitals have been running out of space and resources to treat COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms. Patients with mild and asymptomatic symptoms may contaminate healthcare workers and other patients however, they too need to be cared for.

This crisis is seeing hospital designers and architects discuss the need for touch-free lighting, temperature control, and other building functions. To help avoid spreading diseases. New hospital designs could include technology to assist with keeping patients in touch with their families. Shipping Containers could be part of a new trend of hospital design.

According to, hospitals of the future need to have more flexibility for pandemics and other events, that create temporary surges in demand every 5 or 10 years. One huge drawback is that the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems of many converted buildings cannot recreate a hygienic hospital isolation room.

Field Hospitals

The Daily Maverick reports that two field hospitals have opened in the Western Cape, with two more on the horizon. In Gauteng, there have been five sites identified for field hospitals, however only Nasrec has opened.

A plea for more oxygen was made by the healthcare workers at the Nasrec field hospital. Originally aimed at only treating those patients with milder symptoms and who would not need oxygen. They must now adapt in response to the growing number of infections in the province. Gauteng is now the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic with around 10 000 new cases a day. And close to 137,000 cases testing positive for the virus. The province is experiencing a public hospital crisis. All state hospitals have reached capacity and there is an urgent need to assist patients with oxygen.

National health department spokesperson, Popo Maja, explained that the difference between field hospitals and traditional ‘brick and mortar’ hospitals is that field facilities are temporary. “They are facilities that are repurposed to care for patients who need hospitalisation therefore they do not have full equipment like a hospital.”

Hybrid Field Hospital

Hermetic Mobility Africa steps in to deliver the hybrid field hospital. The essential services marquee is 2500m². It is rented alongside the purchase of the Hermetic medical suite. The field hospital must be looked at in two main components, medical and clinical.

Marquee Tent
Clinical component of Hybrid Field Hospital

The clinical component is for the treatment of patients and requires large facility space for the wards. Within the ward area, a tented structure accommodates clinical cubicles for patient treatment.

The other component is the medical side of the facility. This component provides a more solid structure approach with shipping containers. These premium medical units provide medical facilities for the screening, examination, or consultation of patients. The units provide back of house support facilities like ablutions, additional offices, storage, and canteens.

The beauty of providing this hybrid methodology is that it allows for flexibility and mobility. The containers become the property of the Department of Health or Public Works after the pandemic. The units could be re-purposed into stand-alone medical facilities. Or used in existing hospitals or medical infrastructure as additional capacity.

This will add value to the capital expenditure of the government departments. By providing long-lasting medical facilities that are effective in our communities for many years post-pandemic.

Bringing medical grade facilities to field sites

Hermetic Mobility’s screening suite can be the face of the field hospital. Keeping things organised and in a safe environment. This unit will monitor, disinfect, and control access to the field hospital and its patients. The forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras detect symptomatic personnel moving through the unit.

The Examination suite a converted shipping container comes with top of the range medical-grade steel. The medical-grade floor and wall linings are hygienic, easy to clean and sanitize. The unit contains coving, capping, and drain systems that eliminate dirt and bacteria build-up. From the cabinets to the joinery, everything has medical-grade steel fittings. These units are compliant with standards set out by the CDC and NIH.

Shipping Containers a sustainable answer   

According to Waste Advantage Magazine, shipping containers make exceptional foundations. As they are strong, portable, affordable, quick to install, eco-friendly. They provide added height and storage for just about any type of structure.

Installation time is possibly one of the hugest benefits of using shipping containers for your business or medical facility. No waiting for concrete to dry.

“We can deploy between 100 and 500 field hospital beds rapidly,” says Danny Cinti, Managing Director of the company.

Mounted directly onto tar, soil, or grass, these are notably versatile shipping containers. And on top of existing foundations, like concrete slabs, concrete footings, or wooden beams. These non-traditional structures are sturdy in nature. Greener developments in construction and industry are becoming increasingly popular.

Dual Patient Acute Care Isolation

The reuse of shipping containers is encouraged worldwide, to give the containers a new purpose. You are automatically assisting the environment with discarded steel waste. These secure structures can assist in keeping equipment, tools, and valuables safe and secure in addition to keeping nasty pests and rodents away.

The COVID-19 pandemic is showing the need for flexibility, durability, and expansion in the medical space. Hermetic Mobility Africa’s industry-leading medical-grade suites are the most sustainable and forward-thinking solution. To alleviate hospital bed pressure in times of pandemic or disaster.


Author: Lauren Jane Kemp

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