The H1N1 swine flu outbreak has reinforced the need for the US state of Pennsylvania’s new portable hospitals, according to Health Secretary Everette James.

Eight, 50-bed portable hospital tent systems, packaged as tow-behind trailer systems, have been positioned in strategic locations across Pennsylvania.

The units facilitate triage, acute care and inpatient treatment, and can also function as first aid stations, field hospitals, mass immunisation or negative pressure isolation units for suspected infectious disease outbreaks.

“The current 2009 novel influenza A H1N1 outbreak is a timely reminder of how important it is to be prepared for public health emergencies,” said James.

“Portable hospitals are a key part of Pennsylvania’s preparedness plans. These systems are flexible and can be used in areas that don’t have hospitals, to support existing hospitals or as alternate care sites.”

The portable hospital units can be inflated within five minutes and be operational within two hours of an emergency notification, enabling quick life-saving treatment.