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Spain: Vodafone acts as a facilitator in the large Ifema hospital

Spain is one of the hardest-hit countries in the coronavirus pandemic. El Economista, a daily Spanish newspaper, recently published a story about the role of Vodafone Spain in ensuring 4G and 5G connectivity, along with complex services and technology solutions, for Europe’s newest and largest field hospital. Below is an English translation of the article:

What do you need?" Two words were enough for Vodafone Spain to start up the telecommunications services and equipment of the COVID-19 Hospital in the IFEMA region of Madrid. Its role these days is the closest thing to a technology achiever, i.e. a volunteer capable of seeking his own life in order to satisfy at full speed and free of charge the technological needs that arise every minute in the largest field hospital in Europe, with a capacity of 5,500 beds, of which 500 are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Without exaggerating, those in charge of the shed say that "the center of the Madrid exhibition center has set up in four days what could normally be set up in four years". In their opinion, "the permanent effort of thousands of people has achieved the unthinkable if you look at the starting conditions: to set up an emergency hospital comparable to any large leading hospital in the world.

Daniel Jiménez, General Manager of the Business Unit of Companies of Vodafone Spain, had it clear from the first moment. Upon learning of the start-up of the emergency hospital, the manager contacted Eduardo López-Puertas, Ifema's general manager, to put the operator's resources at his service.

"Send me chargers", was the first urgent request. The patients arrived at the hospital with nothing but their pyjamas and their mobile phones in their hands, so when the battery ran out, the phones stopped working. Almost immediately, Vodafone mobilized its network of contacts to arrange 300 power banks. "What else is needed," they insisted on the company, to find tablets and video-conference equipment, as well as smartphones with good connectivity for health personnel.

"Huawei, Samsung and Cisco are all on the offensive, contributing everything they have at their disposal and remaining constant," they say from the telco.

"But apart from the first needs, in Vodafone we knew about the existence of other emergencies that were also urgent," explains Jiménez, who was already dispatching directly with the head of technology of the Ifema Hospital, Antonio Abarca (CIO from Madrid Salud), who reports to Juan José Pérez Blanco, director of operations at Hospital COVID19 in Ifema (from Hospital Puerta de Hierro).

In response to the new requests, Vodafone enabled its SMS messaging platform, Vodafone Smart Messaging, with the collaboration of Itsoft, to enable coordination and immediate contact with health professionals and assistance personnel via short messages.

In view of the fact that the field hospital could be operational for four or five months, Vodafone has also raised its sights to design a cloud platform, based on AIS technology, specializing in broadcast for surgeons, and capable of enabling the flow and exchange of knowledge between different hospital clusters, in various formats and with the highest quality standards.

A meritorious action

"It's a normal service for a hospital with three or four years' activity, but not so much for one of just two weeks," explains the manager. "So, if you ask me if all this, we have set up is very advanced, I would say no, as the solutions deployed already exist. But with the circumstances we have and the technology available, the merit is to solve all the difficulties in helping the emergency hospital to function like any other large established hospital," he acknowledges.

In the permanent communication between Ifema and Vodafone, doctors and nurses were missing a solution of permanent remote contact with patients, a kind of corridor control. And so, Vodafone deployed its IoT (Internet of Things) devices with 1,800 buttons. The operator asked suppliers in France and Portugal to help out, because of the difficulties involved in logistics during periods of confinement.

In the parking lot of the South access of the Ifema, the telco offers connectivity and 5G devices, so that the media can make their connections and transmissions without delay, with coverage reinforcements, even in 8K videos.

In addition, Huawei's wireless routers, which support 4G and 5G, are distributed to provide Internet access to healthcare personnel and patients without the need for installation. "In these emergency situations, mobility offers instant and effective responses, and that is what is most appreciated," says Jiménez.

Just like a big hospital

Given the circumstances, Jiménez adds, "the merit is to help the emergency hospital to function like any large hospital. Now, every week, new challenges and needs will arise, but the company is ready to receive all kinds of emergency requests... and we will make our own way to achieve this". In this effort, the company "is responsible for integrating and harmonizing the many companies and volunteers who have goodwill and are willing to donate services and products, acting as a thread to channel contributions.

Other technological resources of the Ifema Hospital are the high definition videoconference system for hospitalized hotels and field hospitals, the extension to 5 Gigabits per second of Internet access or the provision of new security technologies, prepared to prevent the cyber-attacks that the infrastructure may suffer during this crisis.

In addition to Huawei and Samsung devices, other technology partners such as AIS, Asintec and Cisco are also collaborating. The latter company contributed video conferencing equipment, with unlimited Webex licenses for all types of virtual meeting rooms, while other partners are working on solutions for the Internet of things, through sensors in the beds themselves, "and tools BigData, Analytic' and cloud services, so as to anticipate the new needs and work on the challenges that from the authorities and management team of the new hospital may arise in the future.

This article was originally published in El Economista on 03 April 2020.

  • COVID-19
  • Digital Society
  • Health
  • Technology

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